Writer’s Word of the Week : Pusillanimous | Birds in the Bush

Usually birds scatter when I enter the backyard, but today was different.  Several speckled, iridescent-black birds with yellow beaks had congregated on top of the backyard blueberry cages. They glared at me, their eyes accusatory, piercing and fierce as I approached.IMG_1841

“I know you’re upset about this,” I said soothingly, “but last year I didn’t get any blueberries. This year it’s my turn.”

Puffing out their feathers in a fluffing display, they spread their wings, rotating them in an aggressive manner as I continued moving towards them.

“Oh, stop!” I called loudly. “No need to be vulgar.”

I couldn’t very well expect them to be polite, after all, they were hungry starlings and rude behavior is pretty much the norm for them, but when I saw wild flutterings arising from inside the cages, I knew what was causing their aggressive posturing.  The birds were in protection mode.  Three young birds had pushed their way under the netting and were gorging themselves on MY berries.

IMG_1843Howling mad, I dropped the bowl I was carrying and sprinted towards my precious blue nuggets. Unzipping the netting I quickly provided an escape route for my feathered friends. Then I promptly zipped the blueberries back into their protective gear and secured the gaps the birds had made at the bottom of the structure to gain access to the fruit.

“You little devils,” I whispered as I bent to retrieve my bowl.  I heard an ugly squawk and felt something slap the back of my head.IMG_1847

Rubbing my noggin,  I cautiously straightened as more starlings massed onto the blueberry cages and fencing in my backyard.

Son of a gun!  This was not a good…not good at all!

Intent on teaching me a lesson, the starlings began to buzz me from behind, while their fellow bird brains loudly vocalized their support and approval.

Not wanting to be hit in the head again, and fearing I was in the birdie equivalent of the Colosseum, I was suddenly overcome by the most pusillanimous inclination, I ran to the house like a lily-livered coward, arms flapping protectively above my head. (Which brings me to the word pusillanimous. It is an adjective meaning: lacking courage, timid, weak, cowardly.)

I was bent over the kitchen sink, gasping loudly, when the hubster entered the kitchen. “How come you’ve got feathers in your hair? Were you playing Pocahontas in the backyard?”

“No, I was playing Tippi Hedron.”  I replied, turning to look at him. “Those birds out there just tried to peck my soul out through my eyes.”

“Ooooo.  Do it again.  This time I’ll watch from the window.”

I narrowed my eyes, pressed my lips together and glared. “Go away.”

The hubster wisely retreated.  Was it pusillanimous behavior on his part?  You be the judge.

 

 

Hilarious Southwest Airline Personnel / Comedy-in-the-Skies

I hate flying.  I really do…or at least I did.  I changed my mind after my first flight on Southwest Airlines in 2013.  airplane

Southwest’s trademark hilarity started on my way down the jetway when a phone rang.  “It’s for you,” said the jetway attendant, extending the phone to the woman trying to board ahead of me.

The woman laughed and pushed his hand away.  The jetway attendant returned the phone to his ear and said, “She doesn’t want to talk to you right now and I can’t say that I blame her.  Apparently, you’re the reason she’s leaving on a jet plane.  Can I take a message?”

I bit my lip and boarded the plane, trembling with laughter.

“We have no assigned seating on any Southwest flights and you are free to sit in a seat of your own choosing,” said a male flight attendant over the microphone.  “However, I would like to offer first-time passengers a word of advice.  Do not sit next to anyone who is naked.  You will find that naked people on a plane cannot be trusted.”

“Widely known fact,” chuckled the man behind me.

I giggled like an idiot, found a seat and waited for the obligatory, boring safety announcements to begin.

“Direct your attention to the flight attendants standing in front of you as they will be demonstrating how to fasten your seatbelt,” boomed the male voice through the microphone again.  “Everyone needs to wear a seatbelt because this airplane is going to be going very…very…very fast.  If you don’t know how to operate a seatbelt, we will help you locate the person who is supposed to be supervising you while you are out and about in public.”

“There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but I assure you, there are only six ways to leave this aircraft so please pay attention,” said the voice.  “The flight attendant in the aisle is indicating the exits with her hands.”

“If you’re traveling with small children or someone acting like a small child today…I’m sorry,” continued the disembodied voice.  “In the unlikely event we lose cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the compartments above you.  Place it over your nose and mouth first.  Next, please decide which child has the most potential or is the least likely to place you in a nursing home when you are older and the secure their oxygen mask before helping the other little ingrates that may be travelling with you.”

“Also, in the unlikely event we land near water today and you have to get wet.  You may keep the lovely yellow party vest and the seat cushion from this airplane to make up for any inconvenience this type of landing may have caused you, compliments of Southwest Airlines.”

“Of course, this is a non-smoking flight.  Federal law prohibits tampering with, disabling, or destroying any smoke detector in an airplane lavatory.  In addition to the large fine imposed by the federal government for this offense, the flight attendants will ask you to step outside and hold onto one of the plane’s wings for the duration of the flight.  So remember, if your grip isn’t what it used to be, smoking is not advised.”

“Lastly, if there is something you’d like to make this trip more enjoyable, please mention it…to someone who cares when we’ve reached our final destination.”

Was our comedian done yet?  Hardly!  He easily took the edge of our nerves like a pro when the plane hit some pretty significant turbulents.  “Would the children in the back of the plane please sit down and stop rocking the plane?  This is not a Ferris wheel ride,” he said sternly.

When we landed at O’Hare, the plane spent an inordinate amount of time taxiing to the gate.  The seasoned flight attendant could tell we were getting annoyed and antsy. “Welcome to Chicago,” he said.  “Here at Southwest we fly you halfway and drive you the rest of the way.  That’s how we keep our prices so low.  Let’s face it, if you could afford a higher airfare, you’d be flying first class on a different airline.  While we are taxiing, please keep your seat-belts securely fastened until you hear the ding indicating the pilot has turned off the Fasten Seat-belt sign.”

A few minutes later I heard the ding and before I could unclick my seat-belt the flight attendant bellowed, “Okay, get out!”

I got out, but I’ll be more than happy to get on again Southwest Airlines.  Well done!

 

Chillaxing In My Own Little Corner/Mindful Meditation

In my younger days, I could solve all of my problems with a cup of tea, a hot bath and a handful of chocolate. As I aged and the situations that life threw my way grew more complicated, managing stress became far more challenging.750

When a friend suggested meditation, I was extremely reluctant to attempt it. I’m not a crunchy granola type of girl and I’d never been interested in hippie voodoo.  For crying out loud, who has time to sit around contemplating the fuzz in their navel anyway?

Still in my role as a nurse, I’d seen mindful meditation work for countless people.  Why not give it a try?  How hard could it be to sit down, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing for twenty minutes?  PIece of cake.  I got this one in the bag.

Holy Mackerel!  Was I ever wrong!  Apparently, I’d underestimated the mess in my head.  If my mind was a jungle, you wouldn’t be able to cut through it with just a simple machete. No siree!  In order to make any significant progress you’d need a few dozen chainsaws, a couple of tractors, a GPS, ten men, and a boy.

My first few attempt at meditation was an epic failure.  The following is an example of the monkey business bandied about in my head that day:

Breathe in and out…breathe in and out…speaking of in and out, that reminds me, I have to put the bills in the mail today which means I’m going have to go out this afternoon. Stop it, just stop it, you’re supposed to be breathing, not thinking!  Okay, breathe in and out…and in and out…and uh oh…I didn’t feed the dogs before I sat down…they’re probably starving… I’m starving too…I’d really love some pizza…but I should probably have something healthy… like a salad.  Ugh!  You’re thinking again.  Focus…focus…I can’t focus when my feet are itching…come to think of it so is my nose.  Settle down girl!  You can do this…breathe…just breathe…caught up in the touch, the slow and steady rush…I can feel you breathe…just breath.  Aaaaugghh!  Now I’ve got that Faith Hill song stuck in my head.  Nutballs!  This meditation stuff is impossible.

Fortunately, before I completely gave up on meditation, I came across an offering from The Great Courses called Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation.  It was taught by Professor Mark Muesse.  I decided to give it a try and it was well worth every penny. (The man has a Ph.D. from Harvard, people, and his teaching is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!  If you’re going to try meditation, I recommend getting this course.  Professor Muesse is familiar with many types of meditation and I especially enjoyed the gratitude (metta) meditation which he introduced.)

I’m not going to lie, sometimes my mind still runs amuck when I’m trying to meditate, but I’ve learned that doesn’t mean I’m a failure.  Now, I acknowledge my thoughts without judgment, put them in a bubble and blow the little suckers away.

My most successful meditation (so far) has involved focusing on my breathing and repeating Isaiah 40:31.  This meditation soothes and comforts me like nothing else. If you aren’t familiar with the verse, it is as follows:

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”

It was from a fabulous sermon that I heard my Dad preach when I was teenager, and well before Chariots of Fire made this verse so famous, but I digress, because that’s just what my mind does.

At any rate, meditation seems to have reduced my stress levels, improved my focus, concentration and creativity.  It’s even helped tame my chronic insomnia.

I’ll be honest, I doubt I’m ever going to experience nirvana, but the peace and quiet I’ve discovered through meditation is truly refreshing.  I’m convinced the world would be a better place if we all got rid of our chill pills and tried meditation.

Winter No Longer Enchanting

It’s hard not be under winter’s spell when the first snow falls and suddenly the world outside your window is silent and deep, wearing only shades of pearl and diamond dust. I’m thrilled to see creation wrapped in all its frosty ethereal elegance until mid-January and then the bloom is off the rose. two old man winter_4c54f733cb735

Now I’m sick and tired of bitter winds, freezing temperatures, cold and flu season, frozen pipes, ice, potholes and most particularly shoveling snow which has been somewhat hazardous to my health.

So far, it’s just been a few muscle aches and strains and some minor cuts to my hands, but if winter continues and my sense of melodrama heightens, I fear I may have to collapse a lung to show my pure disdain for the job.

Make no mistake, shoveling has not been the only thing that has caused me to become disillusioned with winter.  The vice-grip hold of the “polar vortex” has been equally responsible.  Most of the time I can’t feel my limbs and I’m pretty sure I froze my left {redacted} off.  Hypothermia has also severely limited my ability to think and move which explains why I’ve put on enough winter weight to shame a black bear and my lax attitude toward blogging.

In addition,  I can now sand the finish off my furniture with my bare feet and hands, not to mention, the static in my hair could generate enough electricity to power my whole town for at least a month.

The final straw occurred this morning when I woke to my nose spraying blood like a high-pressure fire hose.  I’ve never had a nosebleed in my life and the mess it left was truly impressive.

It’s official.  I am totally over winter!

Spring will come once mother-nature gets tired of her dalliance with old man winter, but just when I think it’s over between them, they start it up again!  Come on mother-nature, just let him go already! You’ll see him again next year, I promise.  I’m sure by that time, I’ll have forgotten how annoyed I am with him and I’ll be looking forward to his return as well. (Okay, I’m not actually sure at this point, but it could happen.)

 

Dealing With A Loved One’s Cancer Diagnosis / Twelve Things I Have Learned.

balled up fistCancer has a way of breaking and beating people down with circumstances far beyond their control.  I try to approach life in a positive manner and look for humor in odd places and dark corners, but sometimes, like everyone else, I get sucked down a black hole of despair and have to claw my way back out.

I’m sure my little preamble is leading some of you to ask, “What the heck is this little chicklet spouting off about now?”  Here’s the deal.  After a long twelve year remission, the hubster’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is back.  (Note to self: For future reference, do not allow the hubster to schedule routine yearly cancer checkups right before major holidays.)

Agonizing memories of the hubster’s chemos, radiation and stem cell transplant suddenly came flooding back to me and played over and over in my mind, like that miserable little jingle from a television commercial that you just can’t get out of your head.

Cancer.  What an awful word!  The disease has changed him.  It has changed me.  It has changed us and not always for the better.  It fundamentally transforms you mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, whether you want it to or not.  As any of you that have dealt with a loved one’s cancer know, the big “C” doesn’t just happen to them, it happens to the whole family unit as well.

I need to remind myself of what I learned twelve years ago and perhaps it will help someone else.

TWELVE THINGS I HAVE LEARNED FROM DEALING WITH THE HUBSTER’S CANCER

1) I can and will be brave and strong.  If I can’t do it for me, I’ll do it for the hubster and the kids.

2) I can only deal with one day at a time (realistically, sometimes I can only deal with one hour at a time) and that’s okay.  I don’t have to be Wonder Woman.

3) I will ask for help if I need it.

4) I will reach out to trusted friends and family.  I don’t have to walk this path alone.

5) I will practice gratitude for each blessing that comes my way on a daily basis.  (a kind word, a compassionate nurse, a loving gesture, a caring friend, an encouraging phone call, etc.)

6) I can and will find the humor in the situation.  Laughter is a strong medicine.  It helps me and it helps the hubster.

7) I will have faith.  I will trust in the highest power of all.  A way will be made where there seems to be no way.

8) I will remember that adversity truly does define character.  I will not allow myself to become an angry, hostile, bitter, frustrated woman.

9) A good cry in a hot shower and a cuddle with my dogs does wonders and helps mitigate the stresses of a long hard day.

10) I can write.  Writing helps me sort through my thoughts and feelings.  It allows me to discard what I can and work through what I must.

11) I’ll call a therapist.  It helps to talk.

12) Above all, I will live inside hope!  I will not simply have hope or go forward with hope.  I will LIVE each day INSIDE of hope.

Life delivered a substantial blow.  Now it stands over me and taunts me, daring me to get back up for another.

Well Life, here is my reply.

Congrats. You had me temporarily flat on my back, but I got to my knees and I’m standing again.  Every time you knock me down, I will keep getting back up and facing you until I draw my last breath.  You see, Life, it’s like my grandfather used to say, “Don’t hold a match under a firecracker unless you’re prepared to deal with the explosion.”  And trust me, you don’t want to mess with this little firecracker.  Capiche?

 

Why Bats Make Me Lose What’s Left Of My Mind / Going Guano Loco

“How can you say you love all winged creatures and not like bats?  They play a crucial role in our environment controlling insects and pollinating plants,” said my darling, but very self-righteous neighbor passing me her empty coffee cup to put in the sink.  “Your fear of bats would disappear with a little education and understanding.”bathead.JPG

“Look, Estelle, I grew up in the country and if they’d mind their own batty business and stay outside, I wouldn’t have a problem with them.” I retorted.

“I’m buying you some books.”

“I wish you wouldn’t.  I know all about bats and I’m not afraid of the ones flying around outside, just the ones that come inside to attack me.”

“Bats don’t come inside to attack you,” she said, shaking her head at me on her way out the door, clearly sorry for the poor deluded human being standing in front of her. “If books don’t work, we can always try reconditioning you through psychotherapy.  I have a cousin that specializes in helping people with phobias.  We’ll talk more about this tomorrow.”

“Terrific,” I replied feebly, closing the door behind her and sagging against it.

I know that it’s completely irrational to believe that bats have it in for me, but I do.  Bats send me to a very dark place where I am reduced to a sniveling incoherent puddle of insanity which normal people like Estelle fail to understand.

My first episode with a bat was not the one that scarred me.  In fact, most country kids have a similar story.  When I was ten, a little brown bat found its way into the upstairs bedrooms of the old parsonage in which my family lived. My sisters, brothers and I panicked and a shriek fest ensued while my father chased the bat back outside.  He explained that the poor little creature had accidently found its way inside our house and assured us that the bat was more scared of us than we were of it.

My second encounter was when a bat accosted me from inside a toilet bowl at the tender age of twenty and it was the beginning of my undoing.  I cannot begin to explain the terror that grips you when a tiny set of claws suddenly attaches to the back end of your bottom while you are locked into a tiny bathroom sitting on the throne.  To say that I arose and freaked out would be an understatement.

Fast forward to the bat frantically swooping around the small enclosed area with me screaming and swatting at it.  Somehow we both ended up tangled in a plastic curtain at the bottom of the shower stall with the little bat’s teeth mere inches from my face while the tiny creature emitted an incessant high-pitched screech.  I’m not going to lie—I passed out cold.

I wish I could say that my clashes with bats ended there, but sadly, it was not to be the case.

The third time I was sitting in the hubster’s office coding some insurance claims when I heard an odd chattering and clicking sound coming from the closed attic door next to me.  I watched in horror as a bat squeezed out of a dime-sized crack in the door jamb and flew straight at me.  I screamed like a banshee and vacated the area tout de suite with my arms flailing wildly around me.  Even though the hubster’s office manager assured me that the bat had been caught and relocated, I refused to code the entire next week.

The episode that drove me over the edge and guano loco (a polite way of saying bat poop crazy) happened late one fall night.  I was lounging in bed and reading a darn good book when I thought I caught a shadow flitting by out of the corner of my eye.  I glanced up from my book and scanned the room.  Seeing nothing, I resumed reading.

The next thing I know, there is a squawking noise overhead and a small brown bat materialized out of thin air.  Flying directly at me, it became ensnared in my long hair.  I screamed until my throat was raw and clawed at my hair until the bat was free, but not before it nipped the top of my ear.  At some point I got a window open and drove the creature out into the night.

Now, intellectually, I know the bat didn’t get tangled in my hair intentionally, and that it was a mistake on the bat’s part, but I get really annoyed with those who say that bats don’t fly into a person’s hair.  I’m here to tell you, it happens people!  It’s not a myth.

Most women take their hair down before they go to bed, but to this day I put mine in a ponytail before I go to sleep.  I never go to the bathroom without thoroughly examining the inside of a toilet bowl either.  I have been completely traumatized by bats and frankly I’m beginning to believe in vampires…but I hear that’s what happens when you go guano loco.

Pushing Against Overwhelming Odds

AWESOMESometimes I find encouragement in the oddest places.  This little petunia pushed it way up through the hostile environment of bricks and crabgrass in our driveway.  It was a truly astonishing achievement considering there are no petunias planted in my yard and there are none growing in any of my neighbors’ yards either.

The odds were overwhelmingly stacked against the flower’s very existence, but the fragile little red and white blossom has flourished, sending up one bud after another.  Over the short summer season, I’ve learned a lot about strength and perseverance from this lonely petunia.

Perhaps it is an extended metaphor for my writing.  If so, how can I have any less fortitude or endurance than that fearless little plant?  My time in the sun will come someday if I keep pushing against the odds.  I am sure of it.

 

Lucy, You Got Some Splaining to Do!

“Lucy, you got some splaining to do!”

Yikes!  There is a hole in our gate!

Yikes! There is a hole in our gate!

The hubster likes to lapse into his Ricky Ricardo persona when he requires an explanation from me.  He claims to have a special affinity with Ricky since he often feels like he’s living in a perpetual I Love Lucy episode.

Granted I do have a knack for getting myself in trouble, but I’m not daffy, I don’t want to get into show business and I’m not a tall, leggy, redhead.

“What is it now, Ricky?” I said, playing along with his game.

“There is a hole in the gate outside.”

“There is not,” I argued.  “What are you talking about?”

The hubster led me outside and stood me in front of the garden gate.  Ruh Roh!  He was right.  Indeed, there was a small hole in the fence.

“What did you do?” I gasped.

“Me?  I didn’t do that,” he said, placing his hands on his hips and giving me an exasperated look.  “Obviously you did it while you were mowing the lawn a couple weeks ago.”

“I certainly can’t remember doing it,” I said.

That was the honest truth of the matter due to the concussion from which I suffered.  The mower had kicked up a rock, the size of my fist, and it had landed on my head and that’s the last thing I remember until I went to the Emergency room five hours later to have a CT scan.  I know I finished mowing the lawn, but I have no recollection of doing it.

“Loooooosee…”

“Now Ricky, don’t get your knickers in a knock.  I’ll look for the piece that’s been banged out and we can gorilla glue it back in place.  It will be as good as new,” I said, puckering up my face and preparing to give him a full on Lucille Ball bawl. “I was only trying to help.  How can you be mad at me?”

The hole looks worse up close and personal.

“I’m not mad at you.  I was just showing you what you did to the fence.”

My face brightening as I dialed back the drama a notch.  “So you’re not going to play Babalu on my backside? I’m so relieved.”

“Get on inside the house.  You’re a crazy woman.”

“I’m a crazy woman?”

He gave me a sly look.  “See, finally something we both agree upon.”

I sighed.  “Okay, this round goes to you Ricky, but tread lightly because when I recover all of my senses, it’s not going to be so easy for you to best me the next time.”

Squirrels Can Swim! | Writer’s Word of the Week – Mordacious

Sopping wet squirrel

Sopping wet squirrel

Our five year old Shiba Inu, Rupert, has appointed himself the sheriff of our property and zealously protects our home from any perceived threat.  He has repeatedly warned the neighborhood squirrels that he is on the job and that they risk life and limb should they decide to invade our privacy; however, the squirrels in our area are brazen little hussies and quite unable to resist the siren’s song of temptation sung by the blueberry bushes in our backyard.

The husband and I were puttering around outside yesterday when I heard Rupert kicking up a ruckus.

“Now what,” I said, turning towards the noise.  Sheriff Rupert was standing at the edge of the pool, fixated on something in the water.

“Huh, I didn’t know squirrels could swim,” said the hubster, scratching his head.

I lowered my gaze to see a furry little creature crazily paddling across the pool.  I was admiring the squirrel’s remarkable swimming abilities until I saw the wheels spinning in Rupert’s clever doggie brain.  He was trying to work out exactly where the squirrel would exit the pool.

I sprang into action.  “Catch that dog right now or you’ll be eating squirrel for supper,” I shouted.

“I can’t catch that dog.  No one can catch that dog.”

Okay, so the hubster had a fair point.  Rupert has lightning fast reflexes and can outrun and outdodge any human alive, but I still didn’t think we should allow the poor little rodent to be dispatched to squirrel heaven because of her momentary lack of good judgment.

“Then run interference,” I cried as the squirrel wiggled out of the water and onto the pool deck.

We proceeded to race about the backyard like lunatics with the squirrel in the lead.  Finally my husband caught Rupert’s backside for half a second, giving the squirrel just enough time to scramble to the top of our lilac bush.

Which brings me to our writer’s word of the week—MORDACIOUS.  It means sarcastic, caustic, or biting.

    The Sheriff

The Sheriff

You’d think the squirrel would have been more appreciative of our help as she drip-dried on the tree, but she felt the need to verbally chastise us for ten minutes with a few mordacious looks thrown in for good measure.  That’s gratitude for you.

Slug Patrol

I despise creepy, crawly, slimy things that lie about in their own goo which is why I really hate slugs.  Well… that and the fact those greasy little lumps of flesh can consume forty times their weight in food overnight.  This year they’re well on their way to turning our backyard paradise into a wasteland.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

We’ve had so much rain that those slippery suckers have become amazingly audacious; they aren’t even trying to hide anymore.  (See exhibit A.) They ate all my basil, put holes in my hostas, chewed my begonias and have started chowing down on my parsley.

Every morning and evening I go on slug patrol.   I pick the ooey-gooey creatures off the plants, take them across the road and pitch them as far down the hill as I can get them.  As you can imagine, this is time consuming and very annoying.

I’ve tried every non-violent way humanly possible to rid the yard of those pests, but my slugs are extremely talented and have even managed to find their way around copper flashing.  I can’t bring myself to squish them, or use salt or pesticides on them because that just seems cruel.

However, out of sheer desperation, I may soon consider offering them beer if they’re determined to keep up their sluggish tomfoolery.  I’ve given this quite a bit of thought, if I were a slug, that’s the way I’d want to go…drunk as a pirate on my way to Davey Jone’s locker.  Hey, it’s preferable to being eaten by a snake.

Writer’s Word of the Week – Furciferous!

Their answers to the question:  Whose idea was this anyway?

Their answers to the question: Whose idea was this anyway?

It’s ninety degree weather and the last thing I needed to do today was chase Mr. Ninnyhammer (a.k.a. Rupert) and Miss Flibbertigibbet (a.k.a. Winnie) around the hot and very humid neighborhood.

If my dogs weren’t such FURCIFEROUS (rascally, scandalous) little scoundrels I’d let them enjoy their merry romps off leash through the community now and then, but they’re not to be trusted.

I knew they’d escaped when I heard them antagonizing our neighbor’s hens into a frenzied cackling fit.  I jetted outside and followed the hoodlums about demanding that they return home “this instant” while apologizing to numerous neighbors along the way for their shameless doggy shenanigans.

I tried to entice them to come home with hotdogs, but being the culinary connoisseurs that they are, they were too busy helping themselves to a delicious selection from a rank compost pile and strewing their leftover tidbits from one yard to the next.  I finally got my hands on the two nincompoops after they decided to chase a cat into an alley for a little tete-a-tete.

I’m presently lying on the floor panting from heat exhaustion, thinking that I should have let the cat trounce them, while they’re busily slopping water all over the kitchen like it’s their job.

They’re lucky that they are so adorable and that I only have the strength to move my fingers at the moment or I’d banish their hindends to their crates so they could think about their criminal activity.  Besides, incarcerating the little rascals has proven less than effective in the past and I am highly suspicious that they use those timeouts to plan their next great escape anyway.

 

Steroids Make Me Cray-Cray!

sickI’m usually in good health, but three weeks ago the hubster shared a formidable little microbe that wreaked havoc with my lungs and necessitated a prescription for a tapering dose of steroids.

I know, I know.   Short term steroid therapy speeds recovery from nasty bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia, but ai-yi-yi, how I hate them!

When I take that tiny white pill I make the energizer battery bunny look like a slug.  I can’t sit still, I can’t sleep and I can’t stop cleaning things.

Despite my fever and ferocious cough, I mowed the lawn and did five straight hours of non-stop yard work.  Then I went inside and washed all the floors in my house.  The next day I washed every window in my house and was still up at one-thirty in the morning polishing the outside of the glass panes by streetlight. The next day I washed and detailed my car and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera for the next seven days.

The steroid story never ends happily for me.  At the end of the treatment I crash spectacularly, weepy and exhausted.

This morning the hubster found me slouched on the couch, surrounded by crumpled up tissues and crying into the crook of my arm between coughing fits.

I lifted my head, staring at him with my bloodshot eyes.  He was spooked instantly.

“Uh-oh,” he whispered, slowly backing out of the room.

“Uh-oh is right buster!” I wailed.  “I’m at DEFCON 2.  Run for your life.”

And he did.

Turning the Tables on an Unsuspecting Vacuum Salesman

 

A very clean rug.

A very clean rug.

Many years ago, the husbster and I were subjected to a three hour long high-pressure sales pitch from two vacuum cleaner representatives and ended up purchasing a fifteen hundred dollar vacuum.  To make a long story short, they wore us down and we made the purchase from sheer exhaustion.

As a result of that debacle,  I  was prepared for the unlucky chap that wandered onto my doorstep this morning hoping to sell me a thirty-five hundred dollar vacuum cleaner.

Yep, I let him in; right after I pulled an old broken vacuum destined for the dump from the closet and positioned it in the front hallway.  The salesman entered with an Oh-boy-this-house-is-going-to-be-filthy glint of excitement in his eyes when he heard my dogs barking.

“Settle down Cujo,” I called to the dog barking madly.

“I love dogs,” said the salesman.  “Is his name really Cujo?”

“It’s his nickname, but it’s well deserved so whatever you do, steer clear of the kitchen,” I warned, fibbing my brains out.

The salesman wasn’t about to let anything as trivial as an unfriendly dog deflate his spirits.  He was a nonstop blabbermouth and barraged me questions.  Was I the homeowner?  Did I handle the finances?  Do I do the cleaning?  How many rugs did I have in the house? Was that the only vacuum that I owned?

He was disappointed to find that there were only two small area rugs in the downstairs portion of the house.  Undaunted, he proceeded with his sales pitch.  He wanted me to clean a portion of one of my rugs with my old vacuum and then he was going to re-vacuum the area with his super-duper cleaning machine.

“Sorry, Cujo chewed on the electrical cord.  It’s not working,” I replied.

“This wire can be fixed with some electrical tape which I just so happen to have with me,” he said, after examining the cord.  He pulled out some black tape and jury-rigged my vacuum.

“Now you can go ahead and vacuum,” he said, pushing the machine in my direction.

“I’m afraid that’s not possible.  My back is acting up again and it’s strictly against my doctor’s orders,” I lied again, hoping that God would not strike me dead from dishonesty.

“Then I’ll vacuum the area we talked about earlier with your vacuum and go over it with mine.”

“Thank you, but unless you’re prepared to do the whole rug, I’d really rather you didn’t.”

He happily obliged and showed me the dirt he’d collected in a special filter after he vacuumed my carpet for the second time.

“That rug is filthy,” I said, looking horrified.  “I’m getting rid of it.”

“Oh don’t do that.  This vacuum cleaner is also a rug shampooer.  You don’t need to throw your rug away.   All you need is the home cleaning system that this vacuum has to offer for the bargain price of only thirty-five hundred dollars.”

“So let me get this straight,” I said, biting my lower lip and trying not to laugh.  “I can buy a thirty-five hundred dollar vacuum cleaner instead of throwing this rug away and replacing it with another one hundred dollar area rug.  I’m not a math genius, but it doesn’t sound logical to me.”

“Well, I can call my manager to see if we can get that price lowered for you.  We could also give you a trade in on your beat-old old vacuum cleaner.  Perhaps I can even get the price down another thousand dollars for you if my manager is feeling particularly benevolent today.”

“Thank you, but that’s not going to be necessary because you won’t be making a sale here today.  I’m managing a tight budget and the last thing I need is another payment on a high interest finance plan, which I’m sure you’ll be more than happy to set up for me, so that I can buy something that I don’t really need.  It’s not going to happen.  This isn’t my first rodeo.”

“But YOU DO need a good vacuum, and in fact, you’re desperate for one,” he argued.  “If I could pull this much stuff out of your carpet, just think of what is floating around in the air.  How can you put a price tag on your family’s health?”

”You needn’t concern yourself.  It’s time to pack up your things and go, but thank you for fixing my old vacuum and cleaning my rug,” I said, trying not to look as smug as I sounded.

He glowered at me as it finally dawned on him that he’d been had.  He slammed his vacuum cleaner back in the box which sent “Cujo” back into another frenzied barking jag. “Fine, but it’s your loss lady!” he growled, exiting the house.

“Not today,” I said, closing the front door behind him.

Okay, so maybe I lost forty minutes out of my morning, but I got the old vacuum fixed and someone other than myself thoroughly vacuumed my rug, not once, but twice and it was all free.

Has this ever happened to anyone else?  Did you yield or hold firm against the high-pressure sales pitches?

Puerperal – Writer’s Vocabulary Word of the Week | Robin Update

The oldest baby bird already left the nest but I caught the two remaining robins working up the courage to leave their home.

The oldest baby bird already left the nest but I caught the two remaining robins working up the courage to leave their home.

I apologize for not posting about the baby robins in a more timely manner. The little darlings left the nest two weeks ago.

Momma Robin is currently up to her wingtips in a new puerperal insanity and is bringing more straw and dried grasses back to pad the old nest for the new clutch of eggs she intends to lay.

The empty nest!

The empty nest!

It’s time for your handy-dandy writer’s vocabulary word of the day: PUERPERAL.  It is an adjective pertaining to a woman in childbirth or used to describe something pertaining to or connected with childbirth.

Heh, heh, heh!  Good luck trying to work that word into conversation outside of the medical field.  It’s not that easy!

Special shout-out to my Chinese blog followers!  “Ni zenme yang, wode pengyou?”

Strolling of the Heifers | Extraordinary!

Eowen the heifer.

Eowen the heifer.

When your zip code is E-I-E-I-O, you eventually become accustomed to sharing space with local farms and farm animals.  Fortunately, I spent most of my formative years in an itty-bitty Maine town so I can truly appreciate Vermont and the down-to-earth people who live here.

For the twelfth year in a row I have attended the annual Strolling of the Heifers weekend in Brattleboro, Vermont.  It’s an utterly charming event and if you’ve never attended it, don’t worry, there’s always next year.  Bring the children and the grandchildren; they’ll thank you for it!006


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The Strolling of the Heifers began as a parade and day-long tribute to agriculture, but it has evolved into five days of awesome events and it has put eclectic little Brattleboro on the map. Tens of thousands of people now attend this popular yearly festival.

The parade is off any known cuddly cuteness scale.  It’s impossible to be a curmudgeon there because, dang it, it’s fun to watch a hundred heifers slowly moo-ving down Main Street, followed by other barnyard critters, tractors, clowns, floats, bands and dairy fairies.

After the parade, I moseyed down to the eleven-acre slow living expo.  It was a veritable showcase of local talent and entertainment, not to mention entrepreneurs, exhibits, games, and vendors.

Alpacas

Alpacas

In addition, it was very educational.  Today I learned the difference between a mule (offspring of male donkey and female horse) and a hinny (offspring of a male horse and female donkey).  I also learned that alpacas and llamas are types of South American camels.  Really? Who knew?

Brattleboro is home to a trapeze/aerial circus school and it was a treat to watch them all perform. This girl was only fourteen, but already a marvelous little entertainer!  She held her poses long enough so we could all snap pictures between our ooos and ahhhs!031

There was a line a mile long for the Strolling of the Cheeses tent, but I patiently waited for my free cheese samples which were delicious!  Nothing like Vermont cheese!

The tractor exhibit was very popular with the kiddies.  Who doesn’t want to sit in the seat of a tractor at any age?  It’s cool!

010Far and away, my favorite moment of the day came when I found a young girl tucked between two cattle trailers.  Her name was Riley and she confessed that she and her cow Cricket were resting in the shade as they were plum tuckered out.   Can anyone say adorable? 

I miss Maine and the ocean, but I gotta say…I love Vermont and the Strolling of the Heifers!

 

 

 

 

Fatal Drowning | RIP Fitbit

The pool skimmer and I have had our issues in the past, but this year has been particularly troublesome.  To be fair, I’m the one at fault.  I fully realize that I must replace the skimmer’s cover after I’ve emptied the basket, but for the life of me I can’t seem to remember to do it.

Never turn your back on a pool skimmer.  They are very mischievous.

Never turn your back on a pool skimmer. They are very mischievous.

Two days in a row, while watering the lawn, I have stepped into the pool skimmer, lost my balance and pitched into the water. Now, if I had been wearing proper pool attire and had removed all electronic devices instead of being fully dressed, this might have been a welcome or at least refreshing occurrence, however, it instead had fatal consequences for my loyal fitbit friend.

For those of you who are not familiar with a fitbit, it is an ingenious little device that clips onto your trouser pocket and 
013measures steps taken, distance walked,and calories burned.  It has become an indispensable part of my life because it by prods me, goads me and sometimes shames me into getting off my duff!

My poor fitbit did not succumb to drowning the first day.  No, indeed!  It instinctively held it’s breath while I grabbed the diving board and swung myself out of the pool.  I was overjoyed to find the clever little machine working perfectly and we happily went about our business for the remainder of the evening.

I really can’t tell you why I didn’t learn my lesson the previous afternoon, but obviously I didn’t and the next day when I took the plunge, I landed much further out in the water.  The fitbit was submerged for a lengthy period of time while I swam to the side of the pool.  I immediately tried to resuscitate it, but to no avail.  I even placed it in a bag of rice for several days on the off chance that it might spring back to life because it missed me so much.

Please excuse me while I share a special moment with the dearly departed.

My dearly departed fitbit.  As you can see, he has a lot of water in his little lungs.  Proof of his drowning catastrophe!

My dearly departed fitbit. As you can see, he has a lot of water in his little lungs. Proof of his drowning catastrophe!

My delightful fitbit companion, I am truly and deeply sorry that you had to be the one to suffer because of my problems with the blasted pool skimmer.  I take full and complete responsibility, little buddy.  If it’s of any comfort to you at all, my leather loafers have shrunk half a size and pinch my feet, thus perpetually reminding me of my stupidity. You were such an inspiration to me and I shall greatly miss you!  RIP!

 

Writer’s Alter Ego

Beyoncé has alter ego Sasha Fierce and I have Princess Olivia.  No, I don’t have a split personality disorder, thank you very much.

Princess Olivia and African lanner falcon named Zulu

Princess Olivia and African lanner falcon named Zulu

While I’m in my element combing through library stacks, browsing bookstore shelves and investigating every bit of information possible regarding angels and birds of prey, I’m not comfortable conducting research outside of those parameters, thus Princess Olivia was born.

Without her,  I would never have had the courage to take advantage of a wonderful research opportunity which serendipitously presented itself several years ago.

Princess Olivia has more cheek and nerve in the tip of her pinky finger than I do in my entire body. She happily agreed to assist a master falconer for three weeks at a large Renaissance fair, but it was more difficult than even she anticipated.

First, the princess was required to learn the falconer’s vocabulary which included terms such as hoods, jesses, creances, gauntlets, and mews to name just a few and then she worked sunup to sundown weighing, feeding, training, exercising, performing and even rescuing the occasional raptor that had flown the coop via radio telemetry.

It was demanding work and not nearly as glamorous as the princess makes it look.  (Trust me, being trussed into a corset for ten hours a day is enough to make anyone cranky come nightfall.)  Birds of prey demand constant attention and owning just one of them is a full time job.

Thanks to Princess Olivia’s efforts and expertise, one of my favorite characters, a  red-tailed hawk named Simon now lives and flies about in the manuscript of Rafe Ryder and the Well of Wisdom.

Never off duty (although out of costume) Princess Olivia assists in training a young peregrine falcon.

Never off duty (although out of costume) Princess Olivia assists in training a young peregrine falcon.

 I’m curious, what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done to research a subject about which you intend to write?

Ululate – Writer’s Vocabulary Word of the Week | Robin Red Breast Update

This morning, after I finished swinging through the treetops looking for my husband Tarzan, I noticed that Momma Robin had left her nest unattended.  I seized the opportunity to snap a picture of her new babies.  It looks like the one on the right just hatched!  I’m so excited!  Please excuse me while I go beat my chest and give Tarzan an ululating call to tell him the good news!  (Ululate is my writer’s vocabulary word of the day.  It means to howl or wail, in grief or in jubilation.)005

Beating Words into Submission

My writing is very much like my cooking.  Sometimes I make a gourmet meal and score rave reviews from the hubster, and sometimes I flop in such an epic way that even my dogs can’t be tempted to taste my culinary blunders. (Here is Rupert, my five year old Shiba Inu, expressing his disdain for one of my more recent failures.)015

Each new day brings the possibility of a pleasurable writing experience and if the hubster is lucky an edible meal, but I can’t always count on either one of those things happening.

While writing can be effortless at times, experience has taught me that it can just as easily be complicated, if not downright arduous.  More often than not, pesky little things called words get in the way of my writing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I adore words, but words are sometimes mischievous and problematic especially after they have been poured out onto a page.  They enjoy taunting, provoking and confounding me, as well as posing knotty little problems for me to tease apart for hours at a time.

I spend a good portion of my day pushing unruly words around, and coaxing the ones which have gone astray back into line.  I have even been known to give particularly troublesome words a good slap and banish them from a sentence altogether.

By my hand (and red correction pen), words often suffer a cruel, but necessary fate for refusing to acquiesce to my wishes, but I really can’t be blamed.  When I am forced to chase words about a page and beat them into submission, it’s rarely worth the effort to keep them around.

There!  I’ve finally admitted it!  I’m not proud of my abusive behavior towards certain words, but I have found I have to be firm and let them know who is in charge.

FYI, I do not advocate, endorse or participate in violence towards any LIVING creature.  I assure you, I just mistreat words and that’s only if they’ve aggravated me to the point of frustration.

I’d best shut my trap before I dig my hole any deeper, but I find myself wondering if I’m the only writer that takes such a harsh stance with words.  I think not, but I could be wrong.  They say confession is good for the soul and remember people, let he who hath not sinned cast the first stone.

Staying Abreast of the Red Robin-Steve Irwin Style

I’m definitely no Steve Irwin.  I do not smooch snakes, collect bugs or enjoy skirmishes with wildlife, but  crikey I get excited about anything with wings!  Look!  There’s another egg in Momma Robin’s nest! 008

I risked life and limb, yet again, to go up to the roof and secure this picture for my blog.  Don’t worry it wasn’t too dangerous.  Fortunately, I have a zoom button on my camera and Momma Robin is developing a tolerance for my aerial routines.

Her choice of locations for her home had been on my list for a severe pruning when the tree service visited our house last week and after we discovered her hard work, the tree was spared, but it had been pruned just enough to afford me an excellent view into her nest from the roof.  She seems to enjoy the umbrella that I loaned her to make up for the branches we took away.011

She and I are becoming quite cozy with one another because bribes are not beneath me. I’ve been leaving juicy brown earthworms all over the yard for her.  By next week, dare I say, we might even be besties.  I’ll keep you all abreast of the situation. (Pun intended this time)

“Traumatic Anniversary Reactions”

For the last five years Cinco de Mayo has been a very challenging day for me, but from what I understand, “anniversary reactions” are common after going through a trauma.  Although I don’t usually flail, toss, turn or disturb the peace in any way when I retire for the evening, I somehow managed to put my foot through a two thousand thread Egyptian cotton sheet last night.  An incredible feat, (no pun intended) if ever there was one. 001

What is she babbling on about now? What in the world is an “anniversary reaction” and pray tell what has made her so dramatic today?

Allow me to elaborate.  Sometimes the memory of a traumatic experience can be so intense that when the date of the experience rolls around the next year, and every year thereafter, the person may suffer restlessness, sleeplessness, anxiety, or any number of other distressing symptoms.

May 5th 2008 was the infamous Cinco de Mayo that began my particular torment.  That was the day my husband and I were informed that our twenty-four year old, healthy, strong, and wonderful son had a fifty-fifty chance of living.  A strep infection had destroyed the electrical conduction system of his heart and had eaten away both his aortic and mitral valves. In an attempt to save his life, the surgeon needed to perform a very risky operation the next morning.

No amount of nursing education or hospital experience prepared me to hear those words.  I was suddenly drowning in shock and pain.  How had my son’s much anticipated short weekend visit home from NYC turned into such a fiasco? How was the world still going on around me when my world had just collapsed? How could my son be in the process of dying?   As a mother, you can never be ready for this kind of news and the word “devastated” cannot begin to describe how I felt.  Watching our son receive and react to the news was even more unbearable!

The next day was a nightmare too, but thankfully, we have wonderful friends who came to sit with us in the hospital waiting room during our son’s surgery.  The gravity of the situation caused me to completely shut down.  I pulled a hoodie up over my head, put my fingers in my ears, and curled up in a waiting room chair with my head buried in a pillow for seven straight hours.  I wasn’t good company, but my darling friends bought me earplugs and sat with me in silence solidarity.

I don’t remember much, and I am very grateful for that, but I do remember praying constantly and begging God to spare my son.  To me, life wouldn’t be worth living if I lost any one of my three precious children.  They were and always have been the best things I have ever done.

My story, however, has a very happy ending because five years later our son is alive, well and prospering with the help of two artificial valves and a permanent pacemaker. Thank God in heaven!   And as soon as May fifth and sixth comes and goes—I’ll be fine for the rest of the year as well.

Luckily for me, Mother’s Day is next weekend.  Hopefully, my three amazing, fantastic, one-of-a-kind children (who I have now just buttered up with the right adjectives) will chip in and buy Momma a new set of sheets or a Bed Bath & Beyond gift card if I promise to sleep on the floor during next year’s anniversary dates.

Springtime Procrastination

I am a prolific writer from late fall to early spring, but as soon as the temperature rises to seventy degrees or above, I have an extremely difficult time applying the seat of my pants to the seat of any surface in my house.

Writing, at least for me, is very difficult during the short New England summer.  During this time my concentration and self-discipline are severely impaired and it’s become obvious over the last few years that I may have to consider summering in northern Canada, Siberia or in the worst case scenario, a Russian-manned drifting ice station in the Arctic Circle.

Yesterday I climbed to the top of my roof to wash some skylights which poses absolutely no problems for me in the late fall.  At that time I scramble up the ladder, wash the windows and get back down on the ground like any rational person.   However, the instant I climb to the top of the house in spring, I find myself in the clutches of a reckless irrationality and this year was no exception.

Deep in the throes of my temporary insanity and dangling from the side of the roof, I snapped a picture of my newest neighbor’s home.  Poor Momma Robin seemed horrified to discover that she had built her new home next door to someone so willing to invade her privacy.  Now, I can’t be certain as I don’t speak fluent robin red breast, but I’m pretty sure most of what she screeched at me from another tree cannot be repeated in polite company and the word voyeur may have even been tossed out during one of her more colorful rants. 044

Then I decided to watch part of a little league game, chat with several neighbors who seemed very concerned about my safety, have a refreshing beverage and text a friend from my iPhone.  (It is amazing all the things you can take up to a roof in the pockets of the right sweatshirt.)

Today is another beautiful day.  I’ve decided to write outside until noon and pray for no distractions.  As long as the hubster remembered to put the ladder away, my feet will stay firmly planted on the ground and there is a distinct possibility I might get some writing done—well, that is after I have a cup of tea, balance the checkbook, pay some bills, take the dogs for a walk and clean that light fixture in the bathroom that has been driving me crazy.

Boston Marathon Bombing

Who committed the monstrous bombings in Boston yesterday and why?  It’s possible that terrorists, fueled by hatred for the United States, were responsible for the bombs that exploded.  It’s equally possible that they were planted by a mentally unstable 001member of our own society.

Who are these cowards that feel compelled to vent their rage, exact their revenge and perpetrate these atrocities?  I could focus on those questions, but to what end?  Right now, I’m just concentrating on the fact that my two daughters and son-in-law who live and work in Boston are safe!

The news media bombarded the airwaves with terrifying footage of the bombing yesterday, yet despite the chaos and confusion surrounding the horrific event, I saw Boston at its best, full of kind, compassionate brave heroes and heroines!

Boston, America is with you and we love you!  Our nation faces these kinds of tragedies together and together we are strong. Listen as we speak words of encouragement and comfort!  You are in our hearts, thoughts and prayers!

The True Story of How I Met E. B. White | Part Two

I watched from the car window as evening spilled over the tiny seacoast town of Blue Hill.  Wispy shafts of light trickled through the trees and gleamed against the white clapboards of the inn situated before us causing them to blush pale yellow.

001In a matter of moments my husband and I would be meeting the renowned and reclusive writer, E. B. White.  Pulse pounding and stomach fluttering, I stepped out of the vehicle.  Tucking my purse securely under my arm, I clutched the firm hand my husband offered and managed to make it to the entrance of the inn without fainting or throwing up.

The innkeepers, a delightful husband and wife team, met us at the door and explained that they would be escorting us to a small private dining area far away from the regular hustle and bustle of their establishment. They knew that Mr. White was rarely tempted to leave the solitude of his saltwater farm in North Brooklin and they were honored to have him as a guest.  With that said, they whisked us through a series of comfortably furnished rooms to the door of a small private dining chamber.

As my husband and I entered the room, I noticed two dignified men sitting in overstuffed armchairs in a corner of the room, legs crossed, chatting amiably and sipping martinis.  I recognize one gentleman as Dr. Soucy, my husband’s preceptor and the other as E. B. White.  They rose from their chairs the instant they noticed us.

“Lois and Cliff, this is my friend Andy White,” said Dr. Soucy.  “Andy, this is Lois and Cliff.”

I smiled hesitantly at the handsome older gentleman standing before me with his silvery white hair and mustache, waiting for him to set the tone for the evening, and to my great delight he extended his hand to me first.

I contained my excitement and shook his hand with all the demureness I could muster. “You have no idea how pleased I am to meet you, Mr. White.”

A shy smile flashed across his weathered face which intensified the deeply etched creases around his twinkling and still mischievous blue eyes.  “Please call me Andy,” he said in a rich resonant tone belying his age.

“I like the name Andy,” I said as we seated ourselves around a small dining table in another corner of the room,  “but I love the name Elwyn.  I have a dear friend named Elwyn.”

His lips curled into a bemused expression.  “Obviously my mother was fond of the name Elwyn too, but I  never really cared for it myself.  In fact, I’ve always said she just ran out of names by the time she got to me and I got stuck with Elwyn.  When I went to Cornell, I got the nickname Andy and I was entirely glad of it.”

“He’s got a little story to go along with how he got his nickname,” said Dr. Soucy.

“Please tell it,” I implored.

Andy smiled at my young wide-eyed excitement.  “It’s not that sensational,” he replied. “The name of Cornell’s co-founder and first president was Andrew Dickson White.  As a little wink and nod to him, any student that entered Cornell with the last name of White was nicknamed Andy, hence I became known as Andy.”

Thus began our extraordinary evening with Andy White.  Conversation flowed freely and easily between the four of us at the table for the next two hours.  I had been expecting a quiet, perhaps even reserved man, but to my delight he was extremely pleasant, utterly charming, and devilishly witty.

Chatting with him was effortless and I still remember our many topics of discussion that evening.  We chatted about Cornell, New York, Maine, brothers, sisters, the medical and nursing professions, sailing, boatyards, the ocean, children, grandchildren, farming, gardening, animals, writing, conservation and quite sadly, Andy’s failing vision in one eye.

We lingered over dessert for another forty minutes, but regrettably the evening was drawing to a close and I still hadn’t worked up the pluck to ask Andy White for his autograph.  It had been such a lovely evening and I didn’t want to spoil it, but it seemed a shame not to have anything to commemorate such an auspicious evening.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and produced a book that I had been concealing in my purse.  “I have a favor to ask you before we go and I will completely understand if you would rather not do this for me, but I brought a copy of Charlotte’s Web.  I was hoping you might sign it for me and my daughter Mindy.”

He nodded his head in a way that told me he was accustomed to such requests but thoroughly disgusted with them as well.

“Your books inspired me to write when I was a girl and I had every intention of making a career of writing until I discovered that writers weren’t always guaranteed steady paychecks.”

He chuckled to himself as if I said something terribly funny.  “You’re still just a girl,” he replied with a sly smile, taking the copy of Charlotte’s Web from my hand.

“To Lois and Mindy,” he said out loud as he inscribed the same onto the title page of the book.  “If you like to write and have a knack for it, you shouldn’t give it up just because you didn’t make it your career.  Write for your own amusement.  I can tell you from solid experience that writing is more gratifying when there are no editors or deadlines involved anyway.”

“I imagine writing is even more enjoyable when you’re not forced to deal with a demanding and adoring public either,” I said.  I mouthed the words I’m sorry as he placed the book back in my hand.

E. B. White shook his head sadly.  “Yes, there is that.”

I clasped the book to my chest and gathered my things.  “Thank you for making an exception and coming out to have dinner with us tonight.  We had such a wonderful time.”

His face flushed and the smile on his face widened.  “I confess I don’t care very much for dinner or nights out anymore, but this has been an enjoyable evening.  You were a breath of fresh air and I was in good need of one.”

I floated out of the inn and into the car alongside my husband in high spirits.

“This night was better than anything I could ever have imagined.  I had such a good time,” I announced to my husband when we arrived back at our cottage.  “Not only did Andy White pay me a compliment, he autographed my book and told me not to give up on writing.”

“I don’t think you should give up on writing either.  Your use of the words bay scallops on the grocery list this week gave me chills,” he said with a smirk, pretending to shiver.

“If you found bay scallops impressive, just wait until you see how I work the word lobster into next week’s list.  It will have a profound effect on you,” I said, kissing him on his cheek and scooting off to bed.

Years have passed now since my husband and I dined with E. B. White, but I have never forgotten how thrilling it was to be in his presence and I’ve never forgotten the words that he spoke to me that night, “If you like to write and have a knack for it, you shouldn’t give it up just because you didn’t make it your career.”  It was sage advice from the man who left an indelible mark on the literary world with his crisp clean writing style and on one incredible evening in 1982, an indelible mark on me as well.

Postscript:  My youngest daughter, Lara,  feeling very left out that E. B. White hadn’t written her name in the book, added her own touch to the autograph when she was about eight.  My family is just full of E. B. White fans!

 

The True Story of How I Met E.B. White| Part One

It was the summer of 1982.  Baby slung low on my hip; I strolled along the rocky Maine beach, drinking in the deliciously cool air and stunning views of Blue Hill Bay.  I couldn’t help but think what a superb job the native American Penobscot tribe had done when they decided to name this place “Kollegewidgwok” meaning blue hill on shining green water.  After all, unusual beauty deserves a unique name.

Pausing to relieve the pressure on my hip, I squatted down and placed my daughter on the beach beside me.  Ecstatic to have escaped my grip, she happily banged clam shells together and slithered through the slimy wet rockweed like a tiny sea nymph.

I congratulated myself as I watched her play.  It had been difficult, but I had managed to finagle a vacation from my nursing job so that our little family could be together for the next two weeks while my husband finished his rural preceptorship with a seasoned country doctor in Blue Hill.

Using my knees to balance herself, my daughter pulled to a standing position and gave me an over the moon toothy smile.  Suddenly the smell of rotting fish stung my nostrils and I gasped.  Horrified, I realized that the wee darling standing in front of me stank like rotting fish.  Laughing at my own parental foolishness, I made a mental note of what tots should and shouldn’t be allowed to do on the beach, and hoisted her to my waist.

The sky turned a lovely orange-pink color as I waddled back to the beachfront cottage that my husband and I were renting carrying my putrid smelling child.  To my surprise, I found my husband home from work and waiting for me in the kitchen.

“Pee-u!  She reeks!  What did she get into?” he asked, pointing at our daughter and waving the smell away from his nose.  “Someone needs to hose her down.”

I smiled guiltily.  “I’ll go run a bath.”

“Wait a minute, I need to talk to you.  What would you say if I told you that I’ve arranged a babysitter for tomorrow night and we’re dining out with my preceptor and—“ he said, pausing for dramatic effect and looking like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary.  “E.B. White?”

“Are you joking? E. B. White!” I squealed, nearly dropping the baby and staring at my husband in disbelief.  “E. B. White, the author?”

“Yes, he lives five minutes away in North Brooklin.  He’s good friends with his family doctor who just so happens to be my preceptor,” he replied, grinning like a maniac.  “Apparently he’s become quite reclusive in his later years, but he’s agreed to have dinner with us.”

No way could this be happening!  I had just been invited to go to dinner with my childhood hero E. B. White.  Elwyn Brooks White, the well-known essayist, the New Yorker writer, the reviser of Strunk’s The Elements of Style and the famed children’s author.

My head was spinning and I was giddy with excitement.  “Oh—my—goodness!” I screamed.  “I’ve got to get a copy of Charlotte’s Webb so I can ask him to sign it.

“I’ll pick up a copy at the local bookstore if you go give that child a bath this instant,” he said, crinkling his nose in disgust.

I momentarily contemplated handing the baby over to him and telling him that he’d get use to the smell, but quickly discarded the idea and headed toward the bathroom with Miss Stinkypants.  I wasn’t going to do anything to antagonize the man who had just invited me to dine with E. B. White.

(To be continued)

What Sets You Apart From Other Writers?

Honestly, I never thought about it until I started writing a blog.  For as much as we writers have in common, we each bring something different and totally unique to the table.  That’s right we’re all special! (God bless us, everyone!)

It’s important to play to your strengths when you write.  Use your natural abilities.  For instance, I have a peculiar brand of snark and quirkiness that I’ve been told makes me somewhat interesting.  (Wow….do I smell a thinly veiled insult or compliment?)

Secondly, I’ve lived long enough to experience the sweetness and beauty that life has to offer, but more than that, I’ve been lucky enough to have faced my fair share of setbacks and misfortunes.  (Lucky to have troubles? Is she insane?  Stay with me people, I promise I haven’t passed quirky and gone straight to stark raving mad.)

There are great advantages to tackling the challenges that life has to offer.  The strength, patience, determination, perspective and wisdom that I possess and enjoy now were born from misery.  Happiness didn’t teach me those things, hardships did.  Learning to understand the inestimable value of emotional pain is essential to the writer who strives to be excellent and it can’t be achieved without some degree of experience.  (So in your face trials and tribulations!  Who’s got the last laugh now?)

My profession as a registered nurse offered me another remarkable benefit.  It was in the service of caring for others that I gained extraordinary insight into human nature and behavior.  To this day that knowledge is indispensable when I’m breathing life into the characters of my stories. (Sorry, no snappy comment to be had on this paragraph.  I’m never flip about my nursing career.)

Finally, I’ve honed my writing skills and I’m passionate about creating literature which not only entertains but inspires young people to read and to think!  I don’t mind hard work, honest critiques, or any necessary revisions that make a manuscript go from good to exceptional.  (However, in my perfect world, I’d be getting paid to do all these things too.)

Now, I patiently await a kiss from destiny as I search for the perfect agent. (And I pray the afore mentioned kiss is planted squarely on the cheek of my face and not the cheek of my butt!)

What sets you apart from other writers?

Jumping into the Blogosphere. Yippee Yi Yo Yikes!

I’m currently suffering what I like to call a yippee yi yo yikes moment.  Come on, you all know what I mean…that thrilling feeling of elation and terror that one gets when experiencing something new for the first time.

Let’s use my current moment as an example.  Yippee yi yo!  I have a website and a blog! Yikes!  I have a website and a blog!  See what I mean?  Yippee yi yo yikes!

At moments like these I like to practice a little positive self-talk and relaxation.  (Breathe L.L., just breathe.  You’ve constructed a platform from which to spring into the writing world.  You’re ready for the challenge and you’re going to be just fine.)

Will people like me and my writing?  At this point who knows?  I certainly don’t.  Yippee yi yo yikes!