Hi, Coco Chanel here. No, I'm not a poodle or a raccoon or a panda. I'm a two-year-old bichon, thank you very much.
Operation Kindness rescued me from a puppy mill, took a photo of me, and placed it in the paper the day after Christmas. Before I could catch my breath over that shock, I was hauled out of my cage and tossed into a car with my new owners, Scott and Sandy, who first took me to the vet's where he declared me sick as a dog (do not get me started on eardrops or the pills they forced down my throat) and then on to a poodle parlor where they had me shaved because no one had thought to brush my coat.
Being two, my not being housebroken or leash trained or anything else for that matter came as a bit of a shock to my new owners, but we're all adjusting. They have gates all over the house, and I'm learning about grass. Better yet, I'm no longer hanging myself on the leash. I still refuse to sit or come when called unless there's food involved, but I have learned where they hide the Milk Bones and know Sandy's lap is the safest place during a thunderstorm.
With any luck, I should have my new owners perfectly trained by Christmas.
~~~ Coco Chanel calls Noodler Sandy Blair's house home.
(My boss and my sister conspired to comission this portrait of Bandy when we replaced some of the very dated artwork here at the office.)
When my ten year old yellow lab developed cancer and had to be euthanized, I was heartbroken. There would never be another dog as good, as sweet tempered, as angelic as Zack. But the kids were devastated, and they needed a new dog to love. So off to the SPCA we went.
No surprise, I was in the market for a dog like Zack. He didn’t have to be a lab, but I wanted a big dog with lots of miles in him, who could run with me and still have energy left. Instead, my daughter spotted and fell in love with a short-legged, long-haired, rotund little guy. Weighing in at about 60 lbs. but standing only knee high, he was what you’d call a “big” little dog. To me he looked like a cross between a Sheltie and a pot-bellied pig. “Oh, he just needs some exercise,” they told me. Nuh-uh. As it turned out, all the exercise and rigorous dieting in the world wouldn’t budge that pot belly. Over the years, the vets figured he had Cushings disease, right-sided heart failure, and any number of things that might account for his big, fluid-filled belly and other anatomic weirdness, but he always disproved the diagnosis and kept right on ticking.
So, home we went with this little short-legged dust mop of a dog, who we named Bandicoot. I told him straight up that he was no Zack, and could never hope to be. The first thing he did was lift his leg and pee on a doorframe inside my house! Fortunately, that behavior was easily curbed, but not so some of his other idiosyncrasies.
We were told that he was taken from his owner, who stood accused of either neglecting or abusing his animals. Based on Bandy’s behavior—and the fact that he’d had several front teeth knocked out—I’m guessing active abuse. We quickly learned that Bandy perceived any kind of human-to-human contact as hostile. If my husband hugged me, Bandy bit his ankle. Remember how I wanted a dog who could run with me? Well, when I tried running with him…he bit my ankles. He saw it as his job to quell any kind of boisterous behavior. When the kids went sliding, he would barrel down the hill after them, slamming into the toboggan and knocking them off. And he growled at absolutely every man we met on the walking trail, though he was fine with women and other dogs. And if that man had a cane or a walking stick, which Bandy clearly perceived as a weapon, he went bananas. I’m thinking the poor guy also saw the business end of a fly swatter a few times, too, as we learned when my then 70-year-old mother swatted a fly and Bandy turned into Cujo.
Did I mention he was no Zack? I couldn’t believe how bad he was. I think that’s why I fell in love with him, because he was so different. Not that I had any choice about it. He bonded to me, and that was that. He has dogged my every step since. Of course, he’s now 15 years old and has blown the anterior cruciate ligaments in both back knees. Because his heart won’t tolerate surgery to repair the ACL injuries, he’s got some pretty serious arthritis. Which means that these days, he makes sure I’m going to settle in a particular room before following me in to settle at my feet.
When casting around for a photo to post, my daughter insisted I use
these ones. When she was little, I bought her this giant stuffed dog. Bandy hated it on sight, deeming it a competitor for our affection. Whenever he got a chance, he chewed the heck out of it. Eventually, it got moved to the basement with a bunch of Lindsay’s childhood toys, but recently, we brought it back upstairs and showed it to Bandy. I haven’t seen him so excited in years! I think he was convinced he’d driven his nemesis off. It’s hard to say if he was dismayed or overjoyed to see it again. And when I say "see", that's a relative term. He has mature cataracts on both eyes, one of which is completely blind. But he still looks at me with love in those eyes.
And I’m truly distraught that my people are pawning the cheap cat food off on me for regular meal time. They buy it in big bags from discount retail chains for the outside cat Carrot, a lithe orange tabby who flirts with me through the family room window. He’s a mere peasant who likes to sit in people’s laps. I am the queen. I deserve high quality expensive kibble available only from pet stores.
Some may think I come by my rounded figure due to a thyroid malfunction, but they would be wrong. I work hard to be the zaftig queen that I am. My people assume I’m only eating the measly portion of Purina One for Adult Indoor Cats™ that they painstakingly measure out every morning. However, I also snack on the outside cat’s cheap bag food when I can sneak out onto the porch (while the woman is unloading groceries). During the past year, I am proud to say I have successfully captured pizza, roasted chicken, chicken fingers, donuts, frosted sugar cookies (bit through the plastic wrap to get to them) and French fries when my people were distracted. Toilet paper (unused) is a nice appetizer on occasion and readily available.
Sometimes Carrot, the outdoor cat who often hunts for my people, runs up the tree near the back window to show off his athletic prowess. From my spot atop the couch, surveying the family room savannah and the outdoors, I glance at him with disdain, lick my torti-colored paws, then cross them to show I do not care to run up trees, chase birds, and leave their decapitated bodies on the back porch.
My life inside is far from the prison Carrot thinks. My people bow to my every need. They even clean my litter box. All I do in return is swat at the ribbon they occasionally dangle in front of my face. If I’m in the mood, I might swipe at it twice. If not, I stare at them until they tire of their feeble attempts to dictate my entertainment schedule.
Schedules are important to me. My typical nap schedule, for example, involves an intricate balance of time and place. The times I most prefer to nap are early morning, mid morning, noon, early afternoon, mid afternoon, late afternoon, early evening, mid-evening, and late evening. Then I go to bed. My favorite napping spots are atop freshly folded clothes (preferably warm from the dryer), across papers and notebooks small child needs to complete her homework, and inside small child’s staged and decorated Polly Pocket house. For some reason, only one paw fits on the bed and most of my body is in the backyard.
As refreshing as frequent napping and feeding are, I do, on occasion, entertain myself in other ways. When the holiday season arrives, I like to lurk under the tree the woman pieces together in the foyer. As my people walk by, I pounce on them. Another good lurking spot is next to the door small child exits from when barely awake. Small child is my favorite target. If I’m in a playful mood, I might fight a few rubber bands, chase dice down the hall, or bat at those shiny balls the woman puts on the Christmas tree. How I love the holidays! Watching those ornaments fall and shatter on the hard wood floor is a pleasure beyond compare.
Another favorite activity is excessive grooming, followed by occasional hair ball retching, which I strategically place on footpaths throughout the house. What good is a hairball that no one can step on, I ask you? I also enjoy tripping my people on the stairs, playing hide-n-seek (only when a delivery man leaves the front door open OR when I sense I have an appointment at the vet), and last but certainly not least, I adore sniffing things that stink, such as small child’s tennis shoes, grandpa’s white socks, and the man person’s sandals after he mows the lawn.
Of course, my life has its share of irritations. Shut doors drive me to distraction. I fear the woman when she chases me down and picks me up to love me and speak to me as if I were her baby. Just thinking about it makes me shudder. I will list for you the many categories of people I do not like: People who want me to sit in their laps. People who won’t share their French fries. People who won’t get out of bed in the morning to feed me. People who don’t clean out my litter box in a timely fashion. The worst people of all, though, are veterinarians and their helpers who weigh, poke, and inject me despite my clear discomfort and annoyance expressed through repeated hissing and biting.
Farewell for now, my subjects. I hear the woman walking down the hall. She is either returning to her computer to write, or she’s looking to capture, squeeze, and love me.
When I first met my husband twenty three years ago, he brought me a flower every day for a year. A few years later we were married and he would leave love notes hidden in various places like the refrigerator or in the closet. I loved getting those notes. He sang to me and made me handmade cards. We talked for hours on end. The years went by and four kids later it seemed we no longer had time for one another. He would leave early in the morning and by the time he got home at night I would be off driving kids to after school activities, etc. We rarely had time to talk and when we did squeeze in a moment, it was about bills or other problems. Sadly, the years seemed to sweep by in a hazy blur. Before long, the oldest left for college, and then six years later, two more kids were getting ready to go and that’s when my husband started to panic. I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. For twenty years we lived and breathed kids. And now they were leaving, which meant he would be left with the youngest child and ME. He doesn’t like being alone. I do. I am an introvert. I am a writer. I hardly ever get bored. But I had been studying positive thinking and all that jazz and I knew my husband needed me. We started talking about goals and dreams, something we hadn’t done in years. It was strange at first, and then exciting when I realized we were still following the same path. We’re both determined to go into our fifties happy and healthy. He has three years to go. I have two. We exercise every day and we look forward to spending time together. We started grocery shopping together, something we never did before. We go out more and we laugh lots. We hug. We kiss. We hold hands. We play loud music and dance. I’ve been hiding love notes in his lunch. Oh, yeah, and the kids. The older three are still coming and going. They still have loads of drama and financial needs and relationship woes, and although my husband and I are there for them and always will be, we no longer allow their lives to consume our every moment. We’re too busy falling in love all over again.
I've had pets all my life, both cats and dogs, with a stray fish, hamster, or other critter. It's been a long time since I've had a dog, after my favorite Lily, a Wiemaraner died about twenty years ago. Since then, it's been all cats.
These days, we have only two, both black, but that is their only resemblance. Jinx came with her brother Jester about six years ago, but Jester couldn't stay out of trouble. One night he violated curfew and a raccoon got him. Jinx had a hard time without him. For about two months, both she and the old cat Shadow, who hated Jester as far as we could see, would go out daily and sit on the stone we put over Jester's grave.
Jinx came into her own after awhile, and as you can see above will do anything cutesy for attention. At night she often curls up under my arm to sleep and sometimes I find her beneath the blanket with me. She loves high places, like most cats, but oddly will actually come down when I tell her to. She's odd that way. The only cat I've ever had who will obey. Well, sometimes.
Shadow, on the other hand, is Jinx's complete opposite. She's short and stubby, with a tail half as long as it ought to be, with an overshot lower jaw and big saggy belly. She was a dumpster cat, so we can only guess at her age, but she has to be at least seventeen. She's a hard one to get to know because she's so ornery. No one picks her up. Ever. I have no decent pictures of her because she knows what that flashy thing is and all of a sudden, despite her advanced age, is gone. She has probably the biggest vocabulary I've ever heard in a cat, with a meow that sounds like she's being murdered, and she runs from every other cat, even tiny kittens. Poor thing, when we got Jinx and Jester, both black, they took one look at her black coat and evidently thought she was Mama. No wonder she hated them!
I went down a Memory Lane trip when I went looking for pictures of our other cats.
My husband and his co-worker found Burnout in a burnout (carbonizing) oven. A starving, wormy and flea-ridden, almost hairless calico, she had apparently crawled into the oven through a vent pipe to get warm. They almost turned it on, but got a wierd feeling something was wrong. She was so tiny, she fit in my husband's palm. She never got bigger than six pounds.
She wasn't the brightest thing it the cat world, as you can see by her poor taste in TV programs. We always attributed the lack of intelligence to her difficult start in life, but her politics left us baffled. Generally, no one but family ever saw her. But she was very loving.
She didn't think much of our sense of humor, nd didn't care for my husband's rings at all. But she patiently endured what she considered to be ridicule until we got bored and left her alone. She wasn't as long lived as most of our cats, and died at fourteen.
Then there was Boo. When I was licensing foster homes, one of my foster parents gave us Boo. Now, here was one smart cat. She made a game of everything, including running all over the house with a ball of yarn until the yarn was completely unraveled. She got the name Boo because she'd hide around a corner, then as someone approached, she'd jump out like a tiny ghost. She thought she could turn off the TV by jumping at the screen because when she'd jump, my husband would click it off. Then one day, a very rare occasion, the TV was on but my husband wasn't around. She jumped. Nothing happened. Two more jumps and she knew she'd been had. I'm sure she found some secret way to pay him back.
When the phone rang, she'd grab the receiver cord in her teeth and yank it off the hook, then purr as she listened to some frustrated human voice saying, "Hello? Hello? You sound like a cat. Hello?"
It's not surprising. She loved people. We obviously had parties for her. Going through all the old photos, everywhere there's a baby, Boo is in the photo. As Boo grew old, I stopped taking pictures of her, for it was so sad to see the cat that had been so rambunctious and smart deteriorate. But she would never have given up. She died in the garage where she went every day to wait for us to come home from work.
But my son did take a picture of her, which he found for me today. When I saw it, I broke out in tears. I won't show it to you. I'd like to remember the best parts, when she was young and loved the whole world.
I'll be the first to admit that I waste WAY too much time on the Internet under the heading "research"
I check the yahoo writer loops I'm on - this is under the misguided belief that someone out there has that one gem of advice that I need to hear in order to improve my life, career and finances.
I blog hop to some of my favorite author blogs. In a lot of ways, this has replaced the yahoo groups with all the messages. I can connect with friends that have my same interests, understand my chosen career and generally have a lot of fun chatting. This is similar to the morning diet coke break I'd take with my co-workers when I had a 9 to 5 job.
Visit my books on amazon and B&N - I tell myself I won't do this. What's the point? They're there. They'll still be there tomorrow. AND when the rankings aren't where I want them to be - major energy suck.
Industry blogs/sites - these are review sites, readers who talk about romances whatever. Something VERY BIG happens on one of these blogs/sites at least once a month. Hundreds of comments, bloggers referring to other blogs/sites. It's a circle that can really become toxic to your time.
So why do I visit these when I know they're not good for me?
Because writing can be hard. Sometimes the words don't flow. The cursor does nothing but blink and while I'm at the computer...it's so easy to hop away from my word doc. Writing is also very solitary, and it's nice to chat, even cyberly, throughout the day.
So, I'm putting myself on limits. Time limits and word limits.
First, I don't hop away from the manuscript until I have at least ___ pages written. I change that number depending on how close to deadline. It's a minimum of one page though.
Second, when I just have to check out the Internet, I give myself a time limit and I use a timer. I can spare 10 minutes.
Lastly, I do give myself a break from writing. I used to be a firm believer that a writer writes every day. Now I'm not so sure. Now I give myself permission to just have an afternoon of reading. Watching a rom com while the kids are at school instead of writing. There's something about that time away that makes me look forward to tackling a manuscript.
Do you have a favorite time waster? How to battle it? Do you take a break from writing?
As I type this, my dog, Oreo, is sleeping at my feet. To be truthful, she’s really my boyfriend, Don’s dog, but both she and I believe we belong to each other.
When I first began dating Don, he already had a beautiful tri-color Collie named Missy. Missy is a gentle, loving dog, and happily took to having another person around to pet her and give her treats.
Four months into our relationship, Don decided he wanted another dog, and I suggested a Shetland Sheepdog. I’d grown up with Shelties and love the breed.
Don began checking out the Sheltie rescue shelters, but couldn’t find the right dog. Then he saw an ad in the paper, and without mentioning anything to me, went to the peoples’ house, and immediately loved Oreo. Don only met the daughter of the family, who told him that they had to sell their animals because her mother was dying of cancer, and they couldn’t afford them.
When I came home, Don was watching television with the doors to the family room closed. Curious, I opened them, and saw the sweetest face peeking around the couch at me, big brown eyes apprehensive. Then we fell instantly in love. She trotted over to me, and I leaned down and petted her. From that moment, she became my shadow. She followed me everywhere I went, curled up under my desk while I was writing, and slept next to my bed. She ignored Don, barking at him whenever he tried to come near her, and skittering off in circles around the couches in the family room to avoid him.
Oreo, or Orrie as we call her, had obviously been neglected. Her beautiful coat was matted, and the tips of her ears had the fur chewed off by one of the other dogs. When I gave her a dog biscuit, she acted like she’d never seen one before. (That quickly changed.)
Since she’d decided I was her human, she became jealous of Missy and very protective of me. She attacked Missy several times when she came too close to me, or even if she came into the room I use as my office. Breaking up dogfights was a frightening experience, and I quickly learned to stay between the two. If I was petting Missy, I had to pet Orrie at the same time. After a month the jealous attacks stopped. But Orrie stayed insecure and would rush up whenever I gave Missy attention. Missy has continued to stay out of the office.
A trip to the groomer’s, a steady diet of good food and treats, and lots of love and attention from me, soon turned her into a different looking dog--at least on the outside.
On the inside, she remained frightened of everyone except me, especially men. We wondered if she’d been abused by a man, had just not really encountered them, or just saw Don (and therefore any other man) as the bad guy who took her away from her family.
When she started barking and became skittish, I’d have to crouch down, and she’d run to me and sit, cuddling as close as she could. It took Don about five months and copious bribing with her favorite treats before she finally warmed up to him.
Now she still follows me, but doesn’t always sit at my feet. She’s not my constant shadow. She plays with Don and sits next to him, especially if I’m not around. She still barks at strangers, but not as much. She’ll even go up to people who have come over several times. She’s not nearly so insecure and skittish. Missy is her best friend.
Last week I had to work long hours and didn’t spend much time at Don’s. When I did go over on Saturday, for the first time ever, Orrie ignored me. She’d come when I called her, but then would leave, pointedly going over to sit next to Don. She made it very clear that her feelings were hurt, and she wasn’t about to forgive me any time soon. Luckily, she relented the next day, much to the relief of her mommy.
Like a mother, I’m proud to watch her become secure and happy, although I have moments of missing the dog who needed me so much.
I love kitties! I have 4, all of them rescues, though Dukey is a rescue by proxy - her mom was pregnant with her when I got her, then promptly gave birth on my son's bed. Dukey was left in her placenta a bit too long, so she's kind of off, but she's sweet.
Every night she joins us for dinner. She sits in the chair beside my dh and watches him adoringly. She doesn't want food- she doesn't like people food. She just likes to be with us.
She's not sociable with the other cats, particularly. Every morning, though, she has a freak out, running up and down the hall and making mewling sounds, which is the only time she meows.
She doesn't like to go outside except when I'm bringing groceries in, and then heaven help me if I close the door with her still out.
YaYa is my other girl. She was waiting by my truck one night when I got out of PTA. A storm front was coming in, so I scooped her up and put her in the truck. She was so sweet on the way home, and remains that way.
She is the queen of comfort. It doesn't matter what you have on your lap, she will shove it out of the way to curl up there. And she's white, so if you're wearing dark colors, all the better!
She's my talker, and she likes to go outside and chatter at the birds. She loves to be in the sun, because she's cold most of the time.
Though she's not my baby, she's the smallest cat. When she was fixed, the vet couldn't get over how tiny her reproductive organs were!
Napoleon is my big boy. When the neighbors found him in the WalMart parking lot, he fit in one of my hands. I bottle fed him for two weeks, bathed him every night. He had fleas so bad, when you pet him, he was bumpy with bites, and when we bathed him, the water ran brown with dried blood.
He's still a bit feral. He's not cuddly in the least, but he'll deign to sit on the couch or computer chair behind me and let me pet him. He LOVES to go outside, and when he's out, he's a completely different cat, rolling in the dirt, rubbing against you, letting you pet his belly.
He's really smart, learned his name quickly, comes when he's called all the time.
Slippy is my baby. I found him in a tree in the park across the street from school. I heard him crying. One of my parents babysat him that day and I took him home. He meets me every morning when I wake up, "prairie dogs" so I'll pet him. He gave us a scare when he got an abscess, then scratched it open, but now he's back to normal. He's not particularly cuddly, but VERY affectionate. His favorite game is to chase our fingers under the bedcovers. If he even sees us walking down the hall toward the bedroom, he'll race ahead and wait for us on the bed, eyes black, waiting to pounce.
Four is my limit, though you should have seen the little Siamese one of my parents brough to school the other day....
Wouldn't it be great to start our Noodler pet stories with the joy of pet ownership? How cute our pets are? How smart and clever? I fear I must present the darker side.....for there is trouble in paradise.
I've been a "cat" lady my whole life and luckily my husband loves cats as much as I do and we've raised two cat-loving children as well. Unfortunately these now-adult children keep leaving cats on our doorstep... and we continue to welcome them! We are up to FOUR cats now and this appear to be one too many.
The ecological balance of our household was upset by this innocent-looking creature, "baby" who came late last summer with my daughter, little more than a kitten and always wanting to play. The two other male cats LOVED this idea, but their interpretation was that this was a good excuse to gang up on the lone, innocent female.
A month or so ago the "fun" escalated into outright warfare and we belatedly realized (after some out-of-litterbox experiences )that "devil cat" (formerly my son's cat) had a urinary tract infection that made him extra irritable. By this time the female cat was thoroughly paranoid and limiting herself to the kitchen table or the back of the couch. Devil cat was treated and calmed down greatly, but girl cat continued to become worse and worse, hissing and growling whenever any cat came in sight. After a few very bizarre toileting episodes on her part, we took her to the vet and discovered she had tumors on her thyroid glands. After a brazillion dollars was spent on an operation (after the gazillion spent on devil cat for the urinary tract infection), she came home, sans thyroid, and with the assurance from the vet that all would be well. Ha!
Girl cat (see her shaved neck and sutures?) is still conditioned to growl at devil cat and baby, who see this as an act of aggression and attack her, which further reinforces her need to hiss and growl at them. She appears to be afraid to go to the room with the litterboxes, a perfect place to be ambushed, so she is exiled to a bathroom and her own litterbox except for brief supervised periods during the day.
Where, I ask, are the joys of pet ownership??????
There is one bright spot..... This fellow, who gets along with everyone, loves to sit on laps, and follows us everywhere.
Our girl cat isn't the only paranoid one. I'm not naming names because I have used pet names as the "secret answer" for when I forget my various passwords. Another thing I should mention, they are all indoor cats--never go outside and wouldn't survive out there (besides, who wants fleas and little "gifts" from the varied wildlife around?). You might ask who cleans up the litterboxes and out-of-litterbox episodes, but that answer is probably obvious........
Any good ideas out there about how to make everybody get along? How do I de-condition these felines and return to the joys of pet ownership?
When you bring an animal home from the shelter, pet store or breeder, there's no telling how it's going to behave. Oh, you can use your past experience, looking for things like playfulness or trusting behavior, but there are no guarantees. An animal that might seem mellow in a cage could bark constantly in your home. Perfectly normal-seeming pets can pee on the rugs, beat up your other animals, leave bloody gouges on your skin, or get into the air vents and die. But if you're lucky, you get what we're all looking for when we take a different species into our homes -- an animal with a bag of cute tricks, or one that's so smart it almost talks, or one so sweet and generous in it's behavior that you treasure each day with it and miss it for years when it's gone.
The Noodlers got to talking about our pets, and decided to blog about our furry, scaly, finny friends, past and present. I would have blogged today about Musette, my present cat, but I need a few more pictures to do her justice. That's her in the photo above. For me, letting the cat out of the bag is not the issue. Getting the cat out of the bag can sometimes be difficult.
My husband, Fred, and I are building a country house. This will be our second attempt. If you've tuned in earlier in the year, this is no big news. But are you ready? We have WALLS!!!
Admittedly they're still sticks, but in my mind they're covered with plaster, paint, and even have bookshelves! Walls are wonderful! I can stand in the spot where my kitchen sink will go and look out the window and enjoy the view of the valley! And I don't have to worry about the dishes yet. When our contractor informed us that the our dream house was going to cost more than we could afford, panic set in. I sat down with a pad of graph paper and came up two new plans pronto. I breathe house plans. There's an architect floating around in my gene pool. I have boxes of dream homes I've designed, unfortunately none of them were 1200 sqaure feet, or less--which is all our stretched budget could afford after purchasing our 9 acres of avocados. Our contractor picked the drawing I liked the best, a tiny three bedroom U-shaped plan around a central patio--my new dining room. The house will have an old world feel with clay tile floors and French doors opening into the garden where I can watch the hawks fly over the valley while I sip my morning coffee. Ah, home at last!
In this month's Top Ten Tips about the care and maintenance of her muse, Diane Perkins mentioned providing her with tea and scones, so I thought I'd blog about tea, which is a very important part of my life.
The origins of tea seem a bit vague--I've read that someone, thousands of years ago in China, felt like a nice cup of hot water, and brewed up beneath a tea bush. He found the leaves that fell into his cup improved things immensely and so was born the nice cup of tea.
Tea first came to England in the seventeenth century when it was acclaimed as having healthful properties and quickly became the fashionable drink of the time. At first very expensive, it gradually became affordable although even in 1810 tea caddies were made with locks. This beautiful example is made of rosewood with bone decorations and it has two interior storage areas--one for green tea and one for black. Quite often tea served as a sort of currency, with servants sometimes receiving a tea allowance as part of their wages (yes, I write historicals. How did you guess?)
Of course to make your tea taste extra special you need a lovely teapot (I admit to using a tea/coffee press purely because I have broken so many teapots in my time) and if I did own a gorgeous example like this one from 1820 I wouldn't dare use it. I have a truly vulgar teapot in the shape of a cottage and I shall always regret not picking up the one in the shape of an elephant in the same store.
Do you like tea, and if so, what sort do you drink? Do you own any nice teapots?
No, I'm not moving, but Anna DeStefano's article about Atlanta in this month's Wet Noodle Posse e-zine made me nostalgic about the nine years I lived there. She reminded me of the indescribable beauty of the dogwoods as they dress the Atlanta landscape in lace. Her article made me recall fun times with friends at Chastain Park, Stone Mountain and a raft trip on the Chatahoochee River. But Atlanta is only one of many places I've lived, and each place holds a lot of memories of good times and good friends.
In recent months several Noodlers have sold houses and embarked on the adventure of moving. A move can be intimidating, but it can also be an opportunity to expand one's horizons by learning something new and making new friends. Even though a person can find the same fast food restautants and stores to shop in, each area of our great country has its own specialties. If I'd never lived in Boston, I probably wouldn't know that they call water fountains "bubblers." And I may never have walked the Freedom Trail or seen the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park. If I'd never lived in Dallas, I probably wouldn't have attended the Texas State Fair and seen Big Tex or seen people walking around munching on huge turkey legs. Living in the Chicago area made it possible for me to see the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field and have the opportunity to stroll along the shore of Lake Michigan and check out the entertainment at Navy Pier.
I was born in Rapid City, South Dakota, the gateway to the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. When I was a kid, I also lived in Montana, where my neighbor had his own little rodeo. I saw a calf being born, fished in the Yellowstone River and visited Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. I went to high school while we lived in Spokane, Washington, the area where three of my novels are set.
Part of my college years took me back to South Dakota, but I also attended Milligan College near Johnson City, Tennessee. During summer school one year, some of us took the short trip over to North Carolina, where we took in the Scottish festival at Grandfather Mountain. After college, my move to Cincinnati, Ohio, resulted in my meeting the love of my life, my husband Bob. Now that was worth the move.
Thanks for indulging me while I reminisced about the places to which I've moved. Because of my many moves, I've managed to visit all fifty states. Now I live on an island paradise, and I don't plan on moving again. What can you tell me about the places you've lived and the memories you made there?
Ah. Mother's Day already. And I've been so frantic with my move to the new house, wrestling boxes and chairs and side tables and beds and two punch bowls into submission, that I forgot to send my mother a present. Or even a card.
I say to myself: I'll call her to wish her a happy Mother's Day. She won't mind that I forgot.
And it's true. She won't.
She knows how frightened I've been, single with children, picking through the wreckage of a torn-up marriage. She's done everything she can to help as I rebuild our safety and happiness brick by heavy brick.
My mother knows what it's like to flee and to lose everything in the flight, everything except the faith that something better is waiting if you can just hold on long enough to find it. She did it as a child.
Her mother was Sephardic, in a Europe that was starting to kill Jews. Her father, a Catholic, moved the family from one country to another, always just one step ahead of the anti-Semitism that he feared would tear his wife away from him. From Greece to Italy; from Italy to France; from France to Monaco. And one day, when my mother was only six years old, they took a shopping trip to New York…and could never go back. The Nazis had closed down every avenue of escape but one. My mother's family kept their lives, but forfeited everything they'd worked so hard to achieve in a lifetime. My mother went from being a pampered dolly to an immigrant in New York City, learning to speak English in a public school.
I've thought about this a lot since my own forfeit; what my grandmother and my mother lost. And what they gained.
When I was a child, I asked my grandmother if I could see the fabulous wedding dress she wore in a sepia-toned photograph on her bureau. She shrugged an elegant shoulder and told me no.
"Why not?" I asked. "Where is it?"
"Hitler took it," she said airily, in her fascinating accent, waving one slender white hand in the air. A gesture that said, what can you do? Accept it. Move on.
With the strength of my grandmother and my mother, I'm moving on, too. This great gift, they gave to me.
I can't give anything greater than the passing on of that gift to my own children.
The other day, I wrote, as part of a blog entry, how I’m not really into the whole bubble bath/reading in the tub thing. I suspected the notion was invented by the Calgon people to sell more bath salts.
Of course, a few people shouted me down. And a few agreed with me. But it got me thinking. I do use water to rejuvenate and refresh me. But it’s not in the bathroom. It’s not at the shore.
It’s at my kids’ swim lessons.
My secret--now revealed--is I love taking my kids to their swim lessons. I sit poolside, in a plastic chair while the instructors put them through the paces. It’s a great swim school; the kids have tons of fun while learning how to swim (in the case of my daughter) or refining strokes and building endurance (in the case of my son). It’s noisy, wet, and hot.
And I love it. The second I plop into a plastic chair, all the tension seeps out of me. Sometimes I read; sometimes I simply stop and breathe.
It’s probably a Pavlovian response. I spent years swimming at the Y, then four solid years on the high school synchronized swimming team. I love the sound of splashing water, high-pitched squeals, and the smell of the pool’s chemical cocktail.
One person’s chaos, another’s secret spa. So tell me, do you have an unusual way, or perhaps a chore, that secretly helps you relax?
Item #10 might give me a bit of trouble, though. Diane is probably going to expect a coherent response when she tells her muse to give her an idea now. Do you think Diane would notice if her new muse’s ideas involved another trip to the museum or attending a Hitchcock films festival? Maybe the suggestion in Item #5 to “take a walk” could bail me out—I notice Diane didn’t say we had to come back.
On the other hand, if Diane treats her muse to all the wonderful things in her article, she probably never has to worry about AWOL inspiration. And the handy thing about feeding a muse is that the writer gets to enjoy the feast, too.
One of the things I love about being a writer is the amazing way it has expanded my circle of friends. And I’m not talking about mere acquaintances—I mean real and true friends.
Next week four friends and I begin chemotherapy treatment. In truth only one of us has cancer, but we’re on this journey together, doing what we can to offer moral support. In between, we critique each other’s work and brainstorm story ideas.
Of course, this isn’t my only circle of friends. Over the years I have kept in touch with my closest high school girlfriends. We shared many of those “firsts” that are so important in a woman’s life—first boyfriend, first broken heart, going off to college, first apartment, first job . . .
Today we have very different careers and lifestyles, but the bond we forged when we were teenagers has kept our friendship strong. The last time we met for dinner, two of our grown-up daughters joined us. Our circle has expanded, and while our daughters may never become best friends, they instantly shared our bond of friendship.
Someone recently sent me an inspirational message that says, “A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach.” That is so true, and whether they’re old friends or new, they’re among the people I value most in my life. They're always there to remind me what the Wet Noodle Posse’s motto says so eloquently . . . be good to yourself, or else!
Tell me about your circles of friends. I'd love to hear about them.
Two months ago, I was so exhausted during a night feeding that, when my sweet newborn got his fingers caught in my stupid boob-length hair yet again, I actually considered hacking off all my hair with some scissors. That was obviously a moment of postnatal insanity, but it has given me new sympathy for Moms who, to the despair and weeping of their husbands, cut their long locks sensibly short after kids come around.
When do we decide to surrender to domesticity?
When does the moment finally come when we realize that a homely minivan not has more comfort and room than our “fierce” SUV, but gets way better gas mileage?
When do we finally realize that cutting our hair short and buying a minivan isn’t surrendering anything—it’s just accepting the truth of our lives and making the most of it?
Because let’s face it, having long hair isn’t doing a darn thing for me, pulled back into a straggly, semi-clean ponytail day after day. My black Jeep Liberty is covered by grime, since I never have time to wash it, and my toddler’s car seat has enough snack crumbs to feed Thanksgiving dinner for six. Wouldn't it be great to have all the space of a minivan? Wouldn’t it be great to save ten dollars every time I fill up the tank?
It’s not like I’m twirling my long hair in dance clubs and taking my SUV off-roading on getaway weekends. Those vestigial traces of my pre-children life aren’t fooling anyone. Especially me.
Should I accept the truth of my changed priorities? Should I cut my hair? Should I get the minivan? That Toyota Sierra is awfully pretty. Or should I fight to pretend that I’m still the same ‘me’ that I was?
Am I the only one who finds it harder to let go of things the older I get? I don't mean important stuff like family heirlooms and priceless antiques--I'm talking spoonrests and doilies here.
Consider my mouse pad. I got it a few years ago at the RWA national conference at the Southern Magic Romance Writers booth. It reminds me that I can finish my wip because I am a writer and I have the skill, talent, energy and courage to do so. I believe so strongly in the message that it's been my one constant writer's aid in the ebb and flow of so many others. Imagine my dismay when last week I looked at it and realized it was filthy. Surely someone else had infiltrated my writing sanctum and spilt coffee on it. Whose dirty wrist had marred the bottom edge? Certainly not mine. In addition to having a no-eating-at-the-computer rule I'm ferocious hand washer. How had my mouse pad gotten so dirty? I refused to ponder what my mouse had been up to when I was out of the room.
Oh, for pete's sake, my rational mind shouted. Throw the dirty thing away.
But the keeper, the pack rat inside of me, protested. I dismissed putting it in the laundry as overkill. Instead, I took it into the bathroom, found a worn-out toothbrush, put a dib of soap on it and went to work on the bottom corner.
Success! The dirt came up--almost too easily. I stood back, looking at my handiwork suspiciously. I scrubbed a little more and was rewarded with more success. Before I knew it I had an old manicure brush sudsed up and I was scrubbing for all I was worth. When the pad looked clean I rolled it up in a towel to wick away the water, waiting with baited breath for a miracle to happen.
My patience was rewarded with a good-as-new mouse pad and a new outlook toward things that probably should be thrown away.
Other than shaving in the dark and sleeping in the park and shouting out something obscene to the Queen, I could be Mean Mr. Mustard, made famous by The Beatles. Of late, I have become a nasty sort, shouting obscenities at idiots on the road (and I note there are always a lot more idiots when I'm in this mood), at the answering machine, at pretty much anything annoying - and I'm in one of those moods where everything is pissing me off.
This isn't a blog about being pissed off, however. This is a blog about how nice people can be, and how wonderful it is to know, even when I get the mean reds, there are lovely people in the world who will remain nice, who'll still be there, being nice, when I climb down off this mountain of poo I've hiked the past few months.
Trish Milburn sent me flowers today. Because Lady Fate, when she doles out poo, really hurls it, and Trish wanted to make the stink a little less intimidating. I have lovely, happy daisies in yellow and white, smiling at me, daring me to stay in this deep funk, reminding me of Trish's friendship and what a lucky girl I am to have her in my life.
Laron Glover sent me a wee trinket, which is, simply, beautiful, and I will treasure it forever. I wish I could show it to you. It's a dangly ornament, which I can hang on my desk, or wear as a necklace, or slip into my pocket and carry about for good karma. One side has a tiny old photo of a woman in a pointy hat and long robes, arms lifted to heaven in supplication. The back has a quote:
Artistic success is not measured by what you get - but what you give: whispers of truth, captured on paper, dispatched from the heart.
Does that rock, or what? It's encased in silver and glass, just beautiful. (Hint: Laron is currently feverishly working on setting up a new business, called Ninth Moon, which will offer all sorts of writerly things for sale, including dangly awesome trinkets like mine. We here at the Wet Noodle Posse will keep you posted.)
Lest you think I'm merely a victim of PMS, or simply crying in my beer because I've yet to sell another book, making a mockery of that RITA win last summer, I should exonerate myself by saying, it's not that. Granted, these things don't help - where IS that Midol??? And WHY won't those editors buy my books??? - but the mean reds aren't because of hormones and nayasayer editors. No, my friends, life has thrown me several killer curve balls in the past few months and I didn't duck.
Lucky for me, I've got backup, catching fly balls before they knock me completely out of the game. I've got an entire Posse riding shotgun, and this is one helluva Posse!
But there are others - people who don't have a clue that what they say, and how they say it, makes my days a wee bit less mean and red. I've spent quite a lot of time traveling BlogLand recently, and in so doing, have met up with some women I never see, who I don't think about on a regular basis, but who I'm reminded are very, very nice people. Women I considered it a pleasure to meet, who I suspect I would hang with, if time and distance weren't obstacles. I've also met a few in my own imagination, only through what they write on their blogs, but they, too, make life a little less crappy.
Here then, is a list of gracious, lovely women and my personal thanks to each of them for being awesome at life:
Dee Tenorio, one of the hostesses at the eHarlequin boards. Dee recently had twins. Dee is a lovely, warm woman, someone I suspect I could ask for the shirt off of her back and she'd give me her bra as well - but Dee, don't! Not while you're nursing!
HelenKay Dimon, who writes for Kensington's Brava line. HelenKay is funny, honest and always seems to 'get it'. I'd like to have lunch with HelenKay.
Sarah Wendell, one half of the Smart Bitches. Sarah is funny, self deprecating and has a baby on the way. If she and I could sit down together long enough, we could solve every problem facing RWA, as well as discover the secret to World Peace.
Angela James, editor wunderkind at Samhain. Also a devoted mama who's gracious enough to share pictures and stories about her baby girl, which never fails to remind me of when my girls were babies. Considering those poo balls I was talking about, most of which came from circumstances in my daughters' lives, this is a beautiful thing. Angie is also on my People I'd Love to Have Lunch With list.
Sybil at The Good, the Bad, and The Unread. I've never met Sybil, wouldn't know her if she walked into my office right now, but from her blog posts, I suspect she would be marvelous to get to know. I'd like to chat it up with Sybil about Romancelandia, and her thoughts on what's not out there that should be.
The Ja(y)nes at Dear Author. Despite Jane's irritation (unfounded, I thought, and she did very graciously say so later) at RWA, and we all know I'm pretty rabid when it comes to defending the ol' RW of A, Dear Author is quickly becoming one of my favorite sites to visit. They have great reviews, and not just the 'big' book releases. I like that, and from all they write, their opinions and perspectives, I already like them - and I've never met any of them.
Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary. if I didn't have an agent I adore, I'd be bugging the hell out of this woman to take me on. She's smart, generous and a 'nice' girl. :)
Ann Wesley Hardin knows way more about me than she should, considering we're not best friends or anything. Funny part - BEST part - is that she likes me anyway. I have a special spot in my heart, just for Ann, even if she is an old bat.
Cat Cody, aka Arianna Hart. She's funny, enthusiastic, and let's face it - she never met a stranger.
Christine Feehan, because she was way beyond kind at my first ever booksigning, at RT in St. Louis. And because her daughter is lovely, and anyone who can raise a daughter so lovely is very special.
Marilyn Puett, who I met on the Desireables list, eons ago when I was trying to write a Desire. She was the first to review my first book, and she said she loved it, which meant I loved her. Subsequent meetings with Marilyn only intensified my belief that she is a genuine, wonderful woman.
Maria V. Snyder, who sat by me at the awards last year and argued that I was going to win. "No, you are," I said. "No, you," she insisted. She was right, and was gracious and fabulous when I came back to my seat. I see she's up for a RITA again this year - I wish her good luck!
Dionne Galace, aka Bam. This woman is funny, and she doesn't pull any punches. She also likes burritos - add her to the lunch list.
You know, this list could go on and on - hundreds of women I've met through the years, faces that come and go, but real people who leave a little bit of themselves with me, whether in person, or through what they write, who make my life so much richer.
When life gets sucky, and mine currently sucks out loud, it is, most truly, heartening to think of kind people, lovely women - sincere souls.
And I keep reminding myself, it's not what I get, but what I give - and that makes all the difference. Would that someone, somewhere might think the same of me - I'll know I'm a real big success.
What about you? Are there people in your life who make your day a little brighter, a little less sucky, and they don't know it?
In this month's Wet Noodle Posse e-zine, we posed the question, "What's your favorite way to exercise?" to the Noodlers. The majority of the answers (located at the bottom of the linked page) came back as walking, including mine. And it makes sense. Walking is probably the easiest exercise to add to your daily routine. You don't need any equipment other than a pair of good athletic shoes unless you count the purchase of a treadmill for walking indoors during cold and inclement weather. But I have to say my treadmill is one of the best purchases I've ever made. It's a piece of exercise equipment I actually use because 1) I like to walk and 2) I can do other things while walking on it. I typically read while on the treadmill, but you can also watch TV or movies or listen to music. And fellow Noodler Kiki Clark has even rigged up a platform across the front of her treadmill and cruises the Internet on her laptop while walking. Now that's talent. I might possibly make a misstep and go flying off the back of the treadmill into the wall. I can just see the look on my husband's face if he were to come home from work and find my arms and legs sticking out of the drywall.
Writers can lead a very sendetary lifestyle if we're not careful. Hours sitting in front of the computer isn't a recipe for great physical health. That's why I make the effort to go to Curves three times a week and walk every day. Last month, I started wearing a pedometer to count my steps and force myself to get in the recommended 10,000 steps a day. That means that at the end of the day, if I'm still short, I hop on the treadmill and walk and read until I reach 10,000. You might not think 10,000 is all that many steps in the course of a day, but according to The Walking Site, which has lots of information about the 10,000 steps program and walking in general, the average sedentary person may only take between 1,000 and 3,000 steps a day.
I challenge all of you to clip on a pedometer -- I have an inexpensive one from Sportline (TM) -- and get in 10,000 steps a day. You may need to take a few days of just normal activity to get your baseline, then work up to 10,000 steps. But every step you add will likely do good things for your body. And once you hit the 10,000 steps a day mark, don't miss a day. Exercise is like writing -- if you miss a day, it becomes easier to miss a second and then a third and so on. I'm up to 22 days and counting.
Some other sites with information about the 10,000 steps program:
http://www.10000steps.org.au/ (for the Australians among us)
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