The Quest for Techies

The other day I received an e-mail from an organization that caters to seniors (of which I’m a member) and that has a 4 letter acronym as a title. This organization was offering a series of free classes in how to operate a smartphone, both android and iOS (Apple) phones. I immediately read further to get the particulars. I have an older android smartphone and my knowledge of its functions is basic to say the least. I can add and subtract people in my contacts, make calls, text, send a photo to an e-mail address and play with my Bitmoji app. That’s about it, so a class to learn more sounded excellent to me. However the letter also stated that our specific phones would NOT be addressed. We students would learn on a phone they would allow us to use during the class. I could just picture in my mind’s eye the chaos in a room full of seniors, all with “deer in headlight” syndrome, interrupting the instructor to ask how this lesson was different than on the phone they used. I had already experienced this phenomenon when I took a class in operating a late model camera and also when I attended a hospital lecture about AFib for which there are several different medications which all work differently.

The e-mail also said that two classes would be offered for android and two classes for iOS phones. One set of classes was offered in the morning and one in the afternoon for each, and these classes were available in St. Petersburg or Tampa. I live an hour north of each of these heavily congested locations. The next thing I noticed was that all the classes in the morning said registration was already full. I never even had a chance to sign-up for a morning class. And the afternoon classes concluded right at rush hour. Surprise, surprise! I wonder who was responsible for setting that schedule up?

I decided to call the number suggested in the e-mail for further questions and when someone answered they knew nothing about these classes. After fumbling around for a while, putting me on hold and coming back, they didn’t know why the morning classes were already full and they didn’t know why the afternoon classes were scheduled to get out at rush hour. They also didn’t know if any classes would ever be offered anywhere nearer me. Why was I not surprised? This sort of thing is so typical in today’s world. Some half-wit took a great idea and turned it into an idiot’s endeavor, by being too lazy or ignorant to figure out how to make these classes possible for people in this geographic area.

Some people have disdain for seniors, claiming they are too stupid or lazy to learn how to use a smartphone or other technology. Those who feel this way are not being fair. I am a senior and I love to learn new things, as do many of my friends. The problem is in finding a source for that learning. I’ve always been good at reading owner’s manuals or going to a store where I’ve purchased an item when I’ve gotten stuck. Owner’s manuals are no longer being printed. The manual that does exist is on the phone, but if one doesn’t know how to get to it, what good is it!!! And if by some miracle you do get to the manual, nothing is explained in detail. It’s assumed we are already tech knowledgeable. And phone stores don’t typically teach people how to use their phones. They upgrade!  The few classes I’ve seen offered are too basic for me. Talk about frustration! It’s laughable!

We seniors need patient young folks to offer instruction in operating cell phones!!! Other technology, too! We’re even willing to pay. Help!!!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

14 Comments

Filed under How To, musings

Does the Human Species Have the Will To Save our Planet? – By Maribeth Shanley

There has been one issue that has occupied my mind for quite some time.  Recently, I listened to a report that put my brain on high alert based on the fear that humans have run out of time.  Here’s my thinking.

I fear that humans don’t have what it will take to stop global warming brought about by our desires and habits.  I am left feeling sad for humans.  I am also left feeling that the basis of our condition stems from our greed, our desire for progress and convenience,  our still primitive mythologies, and our lack of cohesiveness as a species.

Greed

We’re all guilty of this.  As a human species, we’ve allowed ourselves to compromise principles for what we want here and now.  Think of how our society markets to us.

We all want the latest phone.  We all want the latest, classist, most up to date computers.  We all tire of our cars after a few years and begin thinking of our next car.  If we are up and coming in our work, we think of the next, classiest vehicle with all the bells and whistles, and such features as sporty appearance, or rugged handling, etc.  We focus on whatever fits the self-image we present to the public, our audience.

There’s a commercial for Grub-Hub that chants the line, “I want it all.  I want it now.”  You know the one.  You can probably hear it in your head as I do.

We do want it all, now, not later or never.  But, at what cost?

I’m not talking about the monetary cost to our wallet.  I’m talking about the cost to our environment and our future.  Now, consider the reports that are becoming more commonly published.  Think of the two whales a lot of us recently saw posted on Facebook.

Two sperm whales were found beached on the shore.  The photo was an aerial one.  The focus of the photo was these two behemoths lying side by side as specks of humans hovered around the giants.  The humans were saddened, curious and befuddled by the spectacle.

Later, scientists determined the cause of death.  As they cut open the bellies of the whales, the researchers discovered they died of malnutrition.  Yes, their bellies were full, but what filled their bellies?

Their bellies were bursting with all the gadgets of technology we all throw away while we replace them with newer, smarter gadgets.  Their bellies were jam-packed with plastic bottles and bags, fishing nets left in the ocean as well as car parts.  Yes, car parts!  We, humans, have trashed our oceans so we can have it all and have it now.

Greed goes way beyond you and me.

The upper management of the oil industry has known for decades the damage fossil fuels are causing to our environment.  Nevertheless, the oil industry continues to focus funds on digging deep into the ground and ocean floors for oil.  The same energy companies also rupture the subterranean rocks of our planet as the industry digs deep and fractures that same ground through the violent means of fracking.  The marketers tote fracking as a safe means of siphoning “clean” gas.

Clean, where have we heard that term in the recent past?  We heard it from the dying coal industry.  Common sense tells us that oil, gas, and coal are anything but clean.  All we have to do is pull up images on the web showing how oil fields destroy everything under the ground, as well as on top, and around that same ground.  Reports of flames spewing out of people’s faucets and causing those same people to purchase and drink bottled water because the well water that naturally houses their drinking water has been poisoned by the fracturing of the ground around it is commonplace.  Fracking is not clean and it’s not safe.

In fact, according to the experts who study fracking, fracking causes extremely small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern. However, the injection of wastewater and salt water into the subsurface can cause earthquakes that are large enough to be felt and cause damage.  However, humans probably won’t accept that potential result as dangerous until a major earthquake is caused by fracking.

Greed persists among the wealthy and climate change deniers as they refuse to do what is needed to stop the pollution of our planet and its atmosphere.  Our president conveniently calls climate change a Chinese Hoax.  Then he eyes our natural and historical monuments which previous administrations designated public and protected lands such as Bears Ears, and Escalante National Monument among twenty-five other national monuments and parks, including parts of Yellowstone for extracting fossil fuels and precious minerals.

Escalante will lose half of its pristine beauty while Bears Ears will lose 85%, all in the name of progress and convenience.  Trump was caught on camera when he mouthed the words, “If it’s in the ground, we will go dig it up and use it!”

Then we have politicians with whom we entrust our future, that of our children’s, and great-grand children’s future as well chiming in as they too deny that climate change isn’t real.  Consider Oklahoma Senator  James “Mountain” Inhofe’s snowball stunt as he decried the global warming hoax.

In the winter of 2015, as a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Senator stood at the podium on the Senate floor.  In his right hand, he held up a snowball and asked, “Of National attention, in case we have forgotten, we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, do you know what this is?   It’s a snowball from just outside here.  So it’s very, very cold out.  It [the weather] is very unseasonal.  Alright, Mr. President, catch this,” as he tossed the snowball out to the Senators sitting in front of him.

How ironic his stunt was.  It was sarcastic because twice Senator Inhofe chaired the same Senate Committee.  In fact, during his committee tenure, the senators were listening to Scientists testify on Climate Change, when Senator Inhofe made the following comment.  “Do you realize I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee, and I first heard about this? I thought it must be true until I found out what it would cost.”

Inhofe has since repeatedly decried climate change as he invokes the Bible as proof that God would not allow humans to perish over something as benign as climate change.  During his career,  Inhofe has invoked two failures of how difficult it is for humans to deal with, let alone accept the reality of climate change.  His cost comment appeals to human greed, while his bible quoting summons biblical mythology as reasons for not allowing our Federal Government which is supposed to protect us from harm from addressing the topic of climate change.

Mythology

The Bible states, “And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and every living thing.”‘ Genesis 1:28

I can grasp that the mainstay of religion and its mythical beliefs stem from our human fear of death.  As I march toward my demise, I feel the pull of the strings that link me to my Catholic background.  We all need to have hope that there is a life after death.  That belief or desire to believe is what gets us through life.  However, it is mindboggling that humans prefer to invoke that mythology when there is pragmatic evidence that climate change is real.

The best science technology dates the oldest found Biblical transcripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, as having been written as far back as the third century BC.  In fact, according to historical research, scientists believe the Hebrew Bible in its standard form, first came about some 2,000 years before the carbon dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

How can we trust the research and its empirical findings that tell us how old the Dead Sea Scrolls are, while, at the same time, we deny the identical type of research findings because we believe they go against the mythology of believing in something we can neither see nor touch, let alone prove?  Why would that God take care of everything instead of giving humans the means to figure it out for themselves?  In that sense, God did not abandon humans once He kicked them out of Eden.  Instead He gave us the ability to help ourselves in our new paradise we call Earth.

As we consider this current scientific dating process, we discover that the men who wrote the transcripts lived over 4,000 years ago.  How could they, who were mere humans, know what the distant future would bring?  How could they know that their distant descendants would still be primitive in some of their thinking and behavior yet be brilliant in their ingenuity to invent and build the technology of today?  How could they know that their descendants would become consumed with greed and convenience?  How could they know that their descendants, every one of us, would consider that, if we are so smart and all animals are not, then we are kings and queens of our dominion?

That type of thinking encourages those same kings and queens to misinterpret the bible in order to rationalize that everything in our new paradise must be here for our use and abuse.  As such, God simply wouldn’t accept our interpretation.  He would, instead, expect us to use the gifts He gave us to help ourselves!  If  faith, hope and charity are virtues, then covetous and sloth are not.  Instead they are two of the seven deadly sins and the complete antithesis of the virtues.

Senator Inhofe also claimed that God would never allow climate change to harm humans; and, as such, He would prevent the damage to our atmosphere from happening in the first place.  What makes humans think that the same God wouldn’t expect us to solve the problem for ourselves?  After all, we all know that God does indeed help those who help themselves, especially in this new paradise He created for us.

Now consider that, it was the same God that banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden because they disobeyed God by caving to their own human selfishness as they ate the forbidden fruit.  Thus, this same mythology and God would further warn all the descendants of Adam and Eve to take care of their new paradise by respecting its riches.  He would warn against exploitation and corruption of those same riches found in that new paradise to the point that it harms that paradise.  As such, if God would become angry and punish Adam and Eve for eating the forbidden fruit, then, it makes sense that God would also punish Adam’s and Eve’s descendants for creating harm to all animals He created and for usurping the riches of their new paradise.

That same mythology would teach us that God created the knowledge called science.  Subsequently, He also created the inquisitive science-oriented mind equipped to figure out when humans were causing harm.  He would encourage those science-oriented humans to develop methods that would protect the new paradise.  In that sense, God is helping humans to help themselves.

Progress and Convenience

What is progress?  The definition of progress is an advancement.  The description of progress claims it as the developmental activity in science, technology, etc., especially concerning the commercial opportunities created thereby or to the promotion of the material wellbeing of the public through the goods, techniques, or facilities created.   As one species of living creatures among a vast number and variety of living creatures, we must exam that hypothesis.

The word that jumps out at me the most is the word public.  The culture of that word describes only one species, the human species.  In other words, progress calls upon the advancement of the human species alone.  It suggests that humans should not factor in the welfare of other living beings when considering, planning and creating progress.  That definition is the most careless description of human intention.

Progress denies the right of other living creatures who co-habit the Earth.  Every time we drive down the highway, we witness our selfish notion of progress when we see animals who have lost their lives as a result of human progress.  Every time we drive down the same street we’ve driven down numerous times and see an empty lot where trees stood, and animals lived and played; we see the result of human progress.  All the progress we see around us is species-centric and only defines progress in human terms and for human convenience.

As we again consider the two beached whales, we can’t help but admit that our greed, and our lack of conscience toward all other creatures who share this planet with us have suffered.  We’ve been so focused on our perceived needs that whales are dying because they mistake our trash for food.  In addition to killing the animals of Earth’s oceans, climate change is also poisoning the oceans as well. However, that’s a topic for another blog.

Lack of Cohesiveness as a Species

We don’t need to look very far for evidence of that.  When Donald J. Trump took office, one of his first acts was to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement which is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Change (UNFCCC), dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, starting next year in 2020.

As of November of last year, 195 UNFCCC member countries have signed the agreement, and 184 countries have become a party to it.

The agreement’s language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, and adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015. The Paris Agreement’s long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, since this would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change.  (Source, Wikipedia)

Under the Paris Agreement, each country must determine, plan, and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to mitigate global warming.   No mechanism forces a country to set a specific target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets. In June of 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw our country from the agreement. Under the agreement, the earliest effective date of withdrawal for the U.S. is November 2020, shortly before the end of President Trump’s current term. In practice, changes in the United States policy that are contrary to the Paris Agreement has already been put in place. (Source, Wikipedia)

As he does with all other matters, Trump has placed our country in violation of the Accords we signed and are obligated to adhere to.  Without human cohesiveness at the national and international level, cohesiveness at a local level seems fruitless.

In closing, I wish to define for those sitting on the fence of believing or not believing that climate change is real, the distinction between climate and weather.

First, I am happy that our species is finally having open and public discussions regarding climate change.  It wasn’t until last week that a verbal distinction between climate and weather was discussed.  It is a distinction that should have been expressed years ago.  If it had been expressed, Senator Inhofe would have exposed himself to be openly ridiculed for bringing that snowball onto the Senate floor as evidence that global warming is a hoax.

According to the American Geosciences Institute:  Whereas weather refers to short-term changes in the atmosphere, climate describes what the weather is like over a long period of time in a specific area. … Looking at Climate Normals can help us describe whether the summers are hot and humid and whether the winters are cold and snowy at a particular place.  (Source, Wikipedia)

Both weather and climate refer to local conditions (temperature, rainfall, wind strength, etc.) in a particular location or region, but the main difference between them is a matter of time. “Weather” refers to local conditions on the scale of minutes, hours, days, and even months to years: you can have a particularly wet month, warm winter, or rainy decade.   Whereas, Climate” is an average of weather conditions over 30 years or more, and can be assessed for a single location, large area, or globally. While weather can change dramatically in a single location from day to day (for example, cold and rainy one day, followed by hot, dry conditions the next day), climate generally changes less quickly because it represents the average of weather conditions over a longer period of time. (Source, Wikipedia)

When someone laughs at the notion of climate change while invoking the fact that the Earth has experienced Ice Ages, it becomes instantly apparent that person has no clue what he or she is speaking of.  It is true that the Earth has experienced at least five ice ages, but those took thousands of years before they began to form and thousands of years of frozen ground ice before the ice began to recede giving way to more temperate climate conditions.  Those five ice ages were natural phenomena.  Humans had nothing to do with causing them.

On the contrary, the climate change our Earth is currently experiencing is human-made and the changes we are experiencing took less than 300 years to reach the critical stage we now find our home.

The climate change scientists speak of began at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution which took shape between 1760 to 1840.

Before the Industrial Revolution, most humans lived in what we now call rural areas.  There were towns, but those towns were small, and they largely serviced the rural outlying areas.  With the revolution came sprawling cities populated by masses of humans who were needed to fill the jobs of the industries the revolution birthed.

Many of us remember industries with their factories that spewed out huge plumes of dirty smoke from large smokestacks that rose up to the sky.  The factories also deposited their waste into the rivers that ran through the cities and those rivers dumped into the oceans.

In the hinterlands, farms began to grow.  Those farms not only fed families, but they began to feed cities.  Farming changed dramatically.

More ground was needed to be cultivated, and more plants needed to be planted.  Equipment became large, and they all depended on gasoline to fuel them.  Chemicals were developed to encourage crops to grow larger and produce more.  Other poisonous chemicals were developed to kill the insects that posed a threat to the health of the crops.  All those chemicals found their way to the rivers during rain runoff.

In the cities, people needed transportation, so automobiles needed to be purchased which also gave way to public transportation.  All these vehicles needed gas to fuel them.  What happens to fuel as it burns?  It dumps into the atmosphere and as the years progress the atmosphere experiences an abundance of invisible fumes from the fuel that causes the atmosphere to choke.  It chokes just as you and I choke when we stand in a garage with the door shut and the car running.

The fumes have nowhere to go, but up into the atmosphere.  For some time, our trees that evolved to breathe in carbon dioxide (the fume composition of the gas that fuels the cars and factories) were able to breathe in the carbon dioxide and change it to oxygen.  However, when tons and tons of carbon dioxide are exhausted into the atmosphere, those trees become incapable of inhaling all the exhaust, so the atmosphere chokes more.

Then, because the cities encourage human population growth, more and more trees are cut down to make room for buildings whether they are office buildings, factories, stores or living dwellings.  Continue to multiply that and soon you have an overworked atmosphere which is becoming sicker and angrier, when, suddenly, that atmosphere can’t take it anymore so it begins to rebel via climate change which causes more powerful storms taking place at unusual times with winds and floods that destroy the buildings in the cities.

Climate change also causes droughts which have plagued a large portion of  California.   Last year was so dry, that fires broke out and spread so rapidly that fire fighters couldn’t keep up.  The result was massive, out-of-control  fires that destroyed a large percentage of land and forests, including an entire town.

Just this week, the upper mid-west and the east coast experienced record-breaking temperatures that took the lives of nine individuals.  Several areas recorded temperatures below those in the Arctic Circle.  The cause was a fracture in the vortex over the Arctic Circle which caused the air that typically swirls over the Arctic to be blasted south into Canada and the upper mid-west states as well as the uppermost eastern States even causing unusual frigid air into southern States such as the one I live in, South Carolina.  Although fractures in the vortex over the Arctic Circle are not un-common, scientists claim this recent fracture was indeed a result of climate change, caused by the warming of the atmosphere over the Arctic Circle.

Climate change is real alright, and it’s only going to get worse.  Scientists thought we had more time to work up the courage it will take to address that climate change to stall it and then stop it from progressing.  However, their research is proving that the changes are happening at a far more rapid rate than previously thought.

Recently, scientists reported that we have only twelve years to change our ways before the weather becomes even more erratic and more damaging.  We can’t wait that long.  In real time, twelve years is a blink of the eye.

Still, the question remains, do humans have the will and the dedication to change to save the only home we have.  If we don’t, we have nowhere to go.  The only place we can move is another place on our planet.  However, that will be an act of futility because the entire planet is suffering from climate change.

I am typically an optimistic human being.  However, I must confess.  Given the state of the desires and habits of the human species, I am not at all optimistic; and, that makes me very sad.

2 Comments

Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

DNA = Deconstructed Niche Ancestry by Sherrie Hansen

According to Ancestry dot com, my DNA is a mishmash of curious combinations. While the main classifications that they identified held no great surprises, after seeing my DNA pie chart, I’m left with unexplainable images of a debonair Italian troubadour sailing to Scandinavia to open a pizzeria and wedding a sweet Danish girl from a seaside village, or a Middle eastern orphan who was conscripted to be the cook on a Viking vessel and ended up married to a Dane. My imagination and my travels have taken me many places in the world, and so, evidently, it was with my ancestors.

Scot - castle ruins

If you’ve read my novels Night and Day or Daybreak, you already know that I have a love for and a strong connection to Denmark. My mom is half Danish and so was my Dad. That makes me half Danish – but who knows what snippets of DNA filtered into the Danish Viking gene pool over the centuries.

Quilt - Jensen

I grew up believing the other half of me was 25% English / Scots / Pennsylvania Dutch (which I thought meant Dutch}, and 25% Bohemian. A few years ago, after living in Germany for 3 years in the late 70’s and not having a clue that I had any German blood, I found out that my Bohemian quarter was actually half Bohemian and half German. When I was in grade school and researching family trees, my Great-Grandpa Miller was already dead and buried. My great-grandma’s Bohemian pride had carried on while the German part of our heritage had gone to the grave with him. I started asking questions when I realized that Miller was NOT a Bohemian surname, and my dad filled me in on the rest of the story. Finding out that we were part German certainly explained why I felt so at home in Deutschland – and my family’s love of the Jaegerschnitzel and homemade Spaetzle recipes I brought home from Germany!

food - schnitzel

My love for and the connection I feel to Scotland is a little harder to explain. But then, I think I have not only explained it, but given many illustrations of it in Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William, and Golden Rod. I feel at home in Scotland. The scenery and the lifestyle and the people call out to me. Yes, I supposedly had a great-great or great-great-great grandmother who was Scottish. My ancestors hailed from a little village in Lincolnshire called Scoton, which means Scott town. But my passion for Scotland is born of my heart somewhere deep in my soul, and is really quite unexplainable.

Scot - Uig sunset stones

My husband and I are currently in Arizona for a Spiritual Life Conference and later tonight, we’re going to attend a Burns Dinner with bagpipers, Scottish dancers, haggis and meat pies, addresses to honor the great poet, Robert Burns, and of course, some wee sips of whiskey. I can’t wait to meet others who love Scotland and relive various facets of the culture we fell in love with in the 9 weeks we’ve spent in the country – so far.

SW 57

Tomorrow, we’re heading to northern Arizona to visit the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest and an Indian reservation – another culture that’s been precious to me ever since I read about Sacajawea in the 3rd grade. Yes, I’m a bit eclectic.

az-purples

This fall, we’re planning a trip to Prague and several villages in the Czech Republic to explore my Bohemian roots. A few years ago, we spent 2 weeks in Romania, where we followed up on leads regarding my husband’s ancestors. I’ve been to Denmark three times, England several times, and returned to Germany with a new appreciation for my heritage. The ties are there, the pull is strong. I can truly imagine living in any of those areas. Somehow, I’ve bonded with the people and places – in part, because of my heritage, and in part, because I listen and pay attention when places and things call out to me.

Scot - Fairy

There’s one other component of my DNA that is an integral part of my personal DNA, and that’s that I’m part of the family of God, adopted by grace, through faith in Jesus. Those roots go deep as well, impacting everything I think, do, and write.

Zion - Sunset

So take me as you find me, for who I am and who I will become as I deconstruct and explore the various niches and facets and colorful strands of my DNA. It’s reflected in my books – in my whole life. If you haven’t already, I hope one day you’ll join me in the journey.

SW 143

7 Comments

Filed under photographs, Scotland, Sherrie Hansen, Travel

Reunification by John E. Stack

It has been a while since I’ve written about foster care, but I felt that I needed to share this.  If you know anything about foster care, then you know that one of the main objectives is reunification of the child with their birth parents.  As a foster care provider, aka foster parent, our job is to keep the child safe until the court says it is okay for the child to go home.  We have found that this may take a year, eighteen months or even 3 years.

If the birth parents do what the courts ask, then they will receive temporary custody of their child(ren).  If all goes well, then after six months they will receive full custody and the Department of Social Services (DSS) will step out of their lives.  If not, then parental rights will be removed and the child will be put up for adoption.

In the eleven years that we have been foster parents, we have had one child be returned to her mother.  We have had several where the birth parents have signed their rights away and had decided from the beginning that they could not provide a stable home for a child.  The one that did go home was a special situation and her mom did everything she needed to do, plus some.

Anyway, number twenty-two, may be the second child to make her way back home.  I’ll call her Abbie.  We received Abbie when she was two weeks old.  She had gastrointestinal problems which resulted in colic.  Most babies out grow colic in about four months or less.  Abbie’s lasted about five and a half months.  About two and a half months ago, the court decided to give her placement with her grandfather.  This was encouraged by DSS. We figure it was because in a relative placement they do not have to pay the monthly stipend.

Since the move, her grandfather has contacted us several times a week, sometimes to ask a question and others to send pictures.  He lives real close to Abbie’s mom and dad, so they have supervised visitation as often as they want it. This past week, we received a message from mom.  She wanted to know if we could come to Abbie’s first birthday party.  Of course we did, and we did everything we could to make it.

Abbie didn’t seem to know us at first – almost as if she was mad.  After about 30 minutes, she started to warm up.  She showed us how well she could crawl, which she was just starting before she was moved.  Now, she is cruising around the furniture getting ready to walk.  She has continued to put on some weight and appeared to be a truly happy toddler.

So, at the end of the month the mom and dad will find out if the courts are going to let them have their little girl back.  They have been working real hard to do all the things the court required.  She has her grandfather wrapped around her little finger, and I do believe her mom and dad too.

Maybe, just maybe, we are getting ready to see a second, successful reunification.  God’s miracles are often surprising and we are so happy to see this family receive his blessings.

In the meantime, we are at a crossroad.  Are we supposed to continue traveling this overwhelming adventure called foster parenting, or are we at that time in our lives where we need to allow someone else to enjoy the bumps, twists and turns of a path that usually ends in a broken heart.  We have been praying about this, but we can’t see where God has given us an answer, yet.  We are both at or near the age of retirement (I just turned 65 and I won’t say how old my better half is) and we are raising our nine-year-old.  Keep us in your thoughts and prayers that God will tell us what to do.  That is how we started this journey and it is only right to end it that way.

I have a friend who moved away to another state and he called me recently to say they had completed foster parent training.  They had been asked to do respite care (short term) for a two-year-old (I believe).  Anyway, her time was up and her other foster parents were going to get her the next day.  His question to me was “So, how do you deal with this?”  My response was something like this, “First off, I never told you it would be easy.  Second, you have to realize that even your own kids were never your own.  In turn, this one is not yours either.  Third, prepare for a chunk of your heart to be ripped out and know that it hurts like hell.  Fourth, don’t be to big or to tough to cry, and know that it is okay when you do.  After the bleeding stops, God will heal that spot and will place another little one in your arms to help in the healing.  Take some time to regroup.  Suzanne says that every child in care deserves to have foster parents grieve when they leave.  Otherwise, you are not doing your job.  Love you guys.”

Have you ever considered foster parenting?  Know that if you do, you can change the lives of the children you care for and better yet, you can become a person that you thought you could never be.  You will know great blessings and many broken hearts.  People use the excuse that they could never let the children leave because they would fall in love with them.  For some children, you could be the first one to fall in love with them.  What a concept – to be loved so much by someone they couldn’t bear to let you go.  That’s called a family.  Take a chance and change a life.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

2 Comments

Filed under writing

Size Matters – to Me

As a reader, I have a general book length that I prefer reading. As a writer, I found I did, too. When I wrote my first book, it just naturally came out to about 75,000 words which equals roughly between 250 and 310 pages of either a Mass Market Paperback or the larger Trade Paperback, and can vary even more with e-books.

I guess most of the books I read are classified as traditional mysteries, historical mysteries and cozies with an occasional fantasy or adventure thrown in, and these books are all in that general word length mentioned above.  I almost always read every day for at least an hour, sometimes more, so one could say I read a lot of books.

Keeping the price of reading under control is a challenge because I really enjoy keeping up with my favorite authors who have to be prolific in order to keep their publishers. And publishers seem to understand this, so they have encouraged authors, especially best-selling ones, to recommend their favorite books to the public through companies who promote current books (as if authors didn’t have enough to do in marketing their own books). Note: I seriously find it hard to believe that some of the authors listed as recommending some books actually have read them, much less have the time to recommend them. Okay, call me cynical. But, I don’t want to miss out if so-and-so says it’s really great… What to do? Opps, I got a little off track.

Lately more and more opportunities have become available for books to be offered at a discount, both in print and in e-book form and not all the books are current. Some are classics or books that were popular years ago, went out of print and have just become available again (largely due to Print-on-Demand).  Sometimes the books are free or $.99, or $1.99, sometimes more. These books help my budget, provide good PR for the authors and keep their name “out there.”

Maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention, but recently I noticed a trend where a favorite author has a new book out and in my rush to get it, I didn’t check the word-count or length of the file or page count, and after I’ve downloaded it to my Kindle, I find out the book is only 55 pages long. True, I may have only paid $.99, but I feel cheated when the book was not advertised as a novella. It’s easy to check when purchasing, but I’ve been excited and in a hurry and downloaded before checking a few times now. That won’t happen again!

When I read a book, it takes time for me to discern the plot of the book and get the characters straight and usually by 55 pages, I’m really getting interested, not ready to close the cover. Here I’ve invested my money, time and effort and (granted) senior memory in this book and it’s already over. That makes me very unhappy. Has anyone else noticed this trend, or is it just me? Makes me want to mumble, “Grrrrrrr!!!”

With some really favorite authors I’ll wait impatiently however long it takes for the next book in their series to come out and I’ll pay the full price at release date (or pre-order price), but I can’t afford to do that with all my reading material, so from now on, I’ll watch carefully to see how long the book is before I order, because I want to be a happy reader.

How about you?  Have you noticed this size thing? Does it matter to you?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

9 Comments

Filed under internet, marketing, musings, writing

The Mystery of Life by Sherrie Hansen

It’s been two months since I blogged – but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing.  In late October, I dashed off a Christmas play called Count Your Blessings which has since been performed by the Sunday School at my husband’s church to rave reviews and a few laughs, too.

Blog - 1Sheep

Blog - 1Christmas program

In November, I wrote the first 50,000 words of my first ever mystery, Seaside Daisy, set on the Wild Atlantic Way in Dingle, Ireland. I’m loving my main characters, Daisy Fitzpatrick and Cavan Donaghue, and even Aunt Sheelagh and that spawn of the devil, Darcie Sneem.  If you liked my ghosts in Golden Rod, you’ll love Granny Brigid and Captain Donaghue. It’s been great fun reliving the days we spent in Dingle and Killarney and touring the Wild Atlantic Way as well as all our other Irish adventure in early summer 2017.  Participating the the annual NaNoWriMo writing challenge was a great way to jump start my novel and discipline myself to write every day in the month of November.

 

Here’s a sneak peek at what you have to look forward to in Seaside Daisy:  When Daisy Fitzpatrick discovers a treasure chest filled with gold unearthed by a storm in a sea cave near her granny’s Dingle Peninsula shanty, she rents out her seaside shop and loft apartment, buys an old mansion in Killarney, and overnight, finds herself a celebrity with a grand new life. A few months later, the local priest in Dingle ends up dead and the police claim the gold she found was on his land, not hers. When Daisy loses everything, including her friends – both tried and true and new and fickle, can she find it in herself to start over? The Wild Atlantic Way might be a hard foe to tame, but the townsfolk of Dingle, Ireland soon learn that even the roar of the sea is no match for a Fitzpatrick with their mind made up.

Blog - 1Celtic Crosses

When December 1st came, it was time to set Seaside Daisy aside and begin writing a murder mystery for New Year’s Eve at the Blue Belle Inn, the bed and breakfast I own and operate when I’m not writing. Of course, I had a million other things to catch up on after doing little but writing the whole month of November. I also needed to tweak the Christmas program before rehearsals started and plan and create characters for our February mystery. And, I wanted to make some of my Celtic Crosses to go with my Danish books and my Wildflowers of Scotland novels in case people wanted to buy them for Christmas gifts. And, of course, since I was thinking about Seaside Daisy, some Irish crosses, too. That’s where I got sidelined. 

Then, the next week, when I came up with the following premise for our February 15 and 16 mystery dinner, I was so in love with the concept that I wanted to write it immediately! And the menu – well, be still my heart. 
Food - Seafood Mornay
Oh Venus – Make My Dream Come True (or is that too much to ask?) a Mt. Olympus Murder Mystery by Sherrie Hansen – When the Roman gods have a horse fall gravely ill that cannot be healed using any of their powers, they call in Dr. Brown, a gifted veterinarian from Iowa, to try to find a cure. When Dr. Brown restores the horse to health, the gods invite her to a relaxing stay at Mount Olympus Spa “on the house.” “Sorry, Charlie,” she wrote to her husband, “but since I am having such a divine time, I am going to stay on at the spa as a Valentine treat to myself.” After all, she knew that he was not going to buy her flowers or chocolate or take her out to dinner. A few days later, when her worried husband arrived at Mount Olympus Spa to surprise her, she was found dead from an arrow in her heart. Now Jupiter, Mars, Diana, Vesta, Neptune, Pluto, Venus, and Dr. Brown’s husband are all suspects. Figure out who killed Dr. Brown, and you could be the lucky sleuth who gets your dinner free!MENU:

Mount Olympus Tortellini Soup, Green Salad and a Roll with Your Choice of:

Chicken Carbonara a la Jupiter with Parmesan Cream Sauce, Bacon, Mushrooms and Peas on Bow Tie Pasta OR

Pork and Parmesan Stuffed Manicotti a la Mars with Spinach Artichoke Alfredo Sauce and Italian Cheeses OR

Seafood Mornay a la Venus with Swiss, Shrimp and Imitation Crab on Puff Pastry Hearts on Scallop Shells OR

Italian Meatballs a la Vesta in Tomato Basil Cream Sauce with Provolone Cheese on Garlic Toast Rounds OR

Roast Vegetables Diana with Spinach Artichoke Dip on Wild Rice with Italian Cheeses

A choice of Our Homemade Desserts including Italian Cream Cake and Amaretto Whisper Cheesecake will be offered for $5.00 each. Optional Beverages $1.50 each. You may bring your own wine, beer and champagne. A charge or $1.00 per stem includes uncorking as needed. Dinner and Mystery $24.95 each. Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House in St. Ansgar, North Central Iowa.

MM - Midsummer Night's Murder
But since December 31st comes long before Valentine’s Day weekend, I knew I needed to get cracking on my December mystery. I finally found time to write it the week before Christmas and I love the way it turned out.  Here’s the story:  I was in Paris, France on New Year’s Eve, 1979 to ring in 1980. I had been living in Germany for 2 1/2 years and couldn’t wait to experience a unique French menu and entertainment. When we arrived, the host hotel “surprised” us with a German dinner and “oom-pah” band to play polkas! So, remembering that night, I’m preparing the French meal I was dreaming of to go along with a mystery called The Unresolved New Year’s Resolution.

 

BBInn - heavy snow smaller

Our New Year’s performance is sold out, but we will be doing a repeat performance on Friday, January 18 at 6:30 pm. Here’s the scoop:  When someone tries to put an end to newbie 2019’s hopes, dreams and ambitions before it even has a chance to get started, the New Year is forced to go into hiding. If guests can’t determine who is guilty of attempting to stop the New Year in its tracks, 2019 won’t come out of hiding, New Year’s resolutions will remain unresolved, and 2018 will continue on in infamy! It’s up to you to solve the mystery of who’s trying to put an end to 2019 – time traveler Claire Voyant, numbers fanatic Flo Bia, computer geek Y2K19, Back to the Future opportunist Biff Baby Back Baby Back Baby Back, devilish incumbent 2000 Haight Teen, politician Lane Duck, 64 year old Rhea Tyree, and old timer Lester Day, who longs for the good old days when all his troubles seemed so far away… One lucky sleuth will get their dinner free.

Menu for December 31, 2018 and January 18, 2019:

French Onion Soup, Green Salad and a Roll

Your choice of:

French Steak with Cheddar Chablis Sauce and Red Potatoes OR

Herbes de Provence Chicken and Bacon with Roquefort Cream Sauce on Mashed Potatoes OR

Chicken Cordon Bleu Crepes with Ham and Swiss Cheese Sauce OR

Seafood Stuffed Salmon on Wild Rice OR

Roasted Vegetables with Spinach Artichoke Dip on Wild Rice with Cheese

Dinner and mystery $29.95 each. Our featured desserts will include Blueberry French Cream Pie and Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake and will be offered for $5.00 each.

MM - Blue Belle

So that’s what I’ve been up to and why I’ve been too busy to blog. I didn’t even mention writing our Christmas letter since my husband did most it! I hope you enjoyed catching up and that you’re having a great holiday so far. Blessings to all of you as we look ahead to a hopefully wonderful 2019!

4 Comments

Filed under photographs, Sherrie Hansen, writing

The Season by John E. Stack

Merry Christmas.  Early.  Yeah, I know that it is still a few weeks away but down here in North Carolina we received an early Christmas present.  We got an early snowstorm that dropped around 10 to 12 inches on us.  It’s just God’s way of telling school teachers, “You’ve worked way too hard this year, so take a few day off.”  Gotta love it.

Even if we have to make it up, it was good time off.  I did grade a few papers but also started cleaning up and organizing our upstairs. I got the Christmas tree up and Allie helped me decorate it.  Our stockings are already hung by the fireplace and the manger scene is lit in front of the house.

Tradition is a big part of life.  If you try to break tradition, lots of people get really upset.  But hey, if it works, why change it.  We have a 9 ft. artificial tree that we picked up about twelve years ago.  It’s old but still looks very real.  A few years ago we decided to buy a smaller tree, about 6 ft.  Everyone we looked at looked so fake.  We even ordered one and had to send it back.

Sometimes we tend to lose sight of what Christmas is all about. It’s about giving, not receiving.  It’s about providing money for a decent Christmas dinner for a family whose dad lost his job.  Maybe it’s about learning that a family can’t afford to buy gifts, and your Sunday school class picks up gifts for all the kids.  Maybe watching your daughter save her money all year to buy gifts for another child her age who lives in a poor neighborhood.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  God loved us enough to send his Son to save us.  He was given humble beginnings and died as a sacrifice on a cross.  For us.  All of us.  Talk about a gift.  It is difficult to imagine a love so great.  It hard not to tell people about it.

I may not be politically correct, but I know what I believe.

Whether you believe or not, whether you celebrate Christmas or something else, I pray that this holiday season brings you much joy and happiness.  Blessings to all.

 

*** John E Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure and Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

4 Comments

Filed under John Stack, life, musings, writing

My Christmas Card List

My early adult years in the mid 1960’s were spent as a military spouse and as such, friends were most likely people who had shared my husband’s and my life. Military bonds tend to run deep, because they frequently involve hardships. So when friends are made, they often remain so for life, at least for me.

For instance, my husband, Byron and I were assigned to a small radar site in northern Montana, six miles from the Canadian border as the crow flies and thirty-eight miles from the nearest town, population 10,000. Temperatures reached minus 50 degrees that first winter and sand storms were the norm in the spring and fall. Twenty-eight houses comprised the living quarters for families and a small BOQ (bachelor officer quarters) held two or three single men. We were lucky to have TV, but the signal was interrupted every 18 seconds or so with the sweep of the radar antenna. Once every three months, we had a doctor, dentist and priest/minister rotate to our site for a few days, so neighbor helped neighbor, regularly. We became family, a concept particularly meaningful to me, having been orphaned early in my life.

I imagine you have an idea what I’m trying to say about how deeply military families extend and grow to include neighbors and friends. And in each place Byron and I were stationed, our original family of three became larger and larger. From our first deployment, I decided to create a Christmas card list so I could keep up with my family no matter where we all were.  Even now, fifty-five years later, after a divorce even, I’ve kept up with many people from those wonderful military days. From Montana, the people across the street, Cliff and Shirley had a daughter who babysat for our son, Rob, when he was three. Cliff has passed now, but Shirley and I still stay in touch. Then when Byron was teaching aerospace studies at North Texas State University to ROTC students, several of those students are still exchanging Christmas cards with me.

Three years in Germany added to the list and New Mexico and Texas did too, and I gained another friend when I was lucky to invade my husband’s remote tour (without family) to Iceland for a two week R&R (rest and recuperation) visit. And during Vietnam, I spent time with my in-laws since I lived nearby. Our last assignment was in Montgomery, AL at Maxwell Air Force Base Wing Headquarters ROTC and we lived just outside the back gate of Gunter Air Force Station, so the family we gathered there were not just military, but members of a Scottish society and civilians alike.

My husband and I may have divorced, but not my through-the-years friends. In fact they became even closer to me since I’d lost part of my family. And I made new ones from neighbors, church, and various interests.

Yesterday, I received a Christmas card from my sister and enclosed was a poem that I just have to share with you. It says everything I feel about my Christmas card list. Perhaps you have your own version.

 

The Christmas Card List

There is a list of folks I know
All written in a book,
And every year at Christmas time
I go and take a look.
And that is when I realize
Those names are all a part
Not of the book they’re written in,
But deep inside my heart.

For each name stands for someone
Who has touched my life sometime,
And in that meeting they’ve become
A special friend of mine.
I really feel that I’m composed
Of each remembered name,
And my life is so much better
Than it was before they came.

Once you’ve known that “someone”,
All the years cannot erase
The memory of a pleasant word
Or of a friendly face.
So never think my Christmas cards
Are just a mere routine
Of names upon a list that are
Forgotten in between.

For when I send a Christmas card
That is addressed to you,
It is because you’re on that list
Of folks I’m indebted to.
And whether I have known you
For many years or few,
The greatest gift that God can give
Is having friends like you!

Author Unknown

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.
Join her here each 11th of the month.

 

13 Comments

Filed under life, musings

SLUGGER – By Maribeth Shanley

Sweet Slugger

I remember this day.  I put Slugger and Pooker in the back seat.
Pooker immediately climbed over into the front passenger side.  As I got in the car,
I looked back at Slugger.  This photo of him captures the essence of who he was.  He was laid back, sweet and had the biggest heart of any dog I’ve known.
*****

Slugger’s unexpected death marks the end of an era for Bob and me.

On Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, Slugger passed. We thought and, more, hoped that he would be with us at least another year or two. It wasn’t meant to be.

Bob and I woke around 6 a.m. as one of our dogs was flaying on the bed. Getting knocked by a foot, we were startled out of our last few minutes of sleep. Bob sat up and turned on his bedside lamp. It was Slugger who was thrashing. We thought he was having a terrible nightmare, so we tried shaking him awake. No amount of shaking helped. It seemed he had lost control of his body.

As Bob climbed out of bed, I pulled Slugger close and held him in my arms as I stroked him and assured him he was safe. As long as I was holding him and stroking his head, he was calm. We both knew in our hearts that this was the end for our sweet little boy. Bob dressed as I reassured Slugger and kissed his head. Bob then climbed on the bed, and I handed Slugger to him, but not without another terrible bout of  lost control.

Once dressed, I leaned over the bed and picked Slugger up and carried him down to our jeep. Bob grabbed a blanket and a towel. He helped me climb in the back seat with our little bundle in my arms.

If you’ve ever had to climb especially into the back seat of a full-sized jeep, you know how difficult that is especially holding a child; in my case, a fur child. It’s like trying to climb a rock wall without the ability to grab something to hoist yourself up. With Bob’s help, we slid into the back as Bob helped me wrap the blanket around Slugger and slide the towel under his body. We had no idea what to expect next.

The Myrtle Beach rush hour was underway as Bob maneuvered his way through traffic as he had to slam on his brakes several times. Driving in Myrtle Beach is a nightmare any time of the year, but especially during the summer season or any major holiday.   Like leftover turkey, there was still leftover traffic from Thanksgiving weekend. The torons (a variation of morons for tourists) were still in town. Couple them with transplants from all sorts of States who brought their unique bad driving habits with them and you have a mess. There are several daily accidents on the route we were taking.   I gently reminded Bob that a seatbelt didn’t secure Slugger and me.

Slugger rested in my arms as Bob made his way to Banfield Hospital which is located at the back end of the PetSmart store.

Once Bob parked the Jeep, we walked into the store and began walking toward the back end.  As we passed the last aisle and made eye contact with Tracey, one of the receptionists, she said something to the other receptionist, got up and guided us to one of the exam rooms. Tracey intuitively knew why we were there.

Two year’s prior; we carried Slugger’s brother in only to find out he had diabetes. The familiar, kind receptionist, with a sad expression on her face, guided us to the room, said something and shut the door. Moments later, a vet assistant came in and asked a few questions. She pulled up Slugger’s computer record typed something in and told us she would get Dr. Chapman. Before she left, I tried to lay Slugger on the folded orange blanket the assistant placed on the exam table. However, Slugger immediately began thrashing again. So, I picked him up and backed up to the bench where I sat holding Slugger.  The assistant forced a sad smile, nodded approval, and left the room.

A few seconds later, Dr. Chapman followed by the assistant entered the room. The doctor picked up the orange blanket and tried to place it between Slugger and my lap. She acknowledged there was not much she could do for our boy as she also gently suggested that it was time for Slugger to leave. With tears in our eyes, we both acknowledged that we knew his time had come.

As I held a former fur child, Munch, so many years prior and felt her body go limp, I swore I would never go through that again. Now, however, I knew it was the only alternative. I also promised years ago that, if I can be there, no fur child of ours would ever die alone. Unless I die in my sleep, I hope I am not alone when I die. Therefore, how could I allow my child to die without being lovingly held close?

I pulled Slugger to my bosom reassuring him that it would be okay. As he stroked Slugger’s head, Bob, still standing also reassured him. The insertion of an IV into a vein caused a lot of blood, as the doctor quickly wrapped a bandage around Slugger’s leg to hold the IV and stop the flow. She talked to us, but I don’t recall a word she said. I’m sure she was explaining something when her assistant walked back in with a tray. As she inserted the first needle into the IV, she said, this will relax Slugger so he can pass quietly. She then stuck the second needle in and, because of what I was sensing from his body, I asked if it was instantaneous. She said yes as I also felt Slugger’s heart stop.

Dr. Chapman and her assistant left the room as I pulled my phone out of my pocket and began searching for the cremation service we used for both Pooker and Sissy, our cat who died shortly after our move to the Myrtle Beach area. Sissy was 21 when she passed in Bob’s arms.

As I talked to the female owner and spouse of the business founder, when I told her where we lived, she explained that they didn’t drive that far out. However, after I told her we wanted to bring Slugger home so our other dog, Bailey and our two cats, Skeeter and Sassy could say good-bye, she acknowledged that she would make an exception. After all, we were permanent customers of the crematorium.

We explained our plans to the assistant who reentered the room. She retrieved a coffin-shaped box and laid it on the table. Bob helped me put our little boy in the box, remove his harness, and cover him again with the blanket we wrapped him in for the journey. As we walked out, we could hear gasps from the other two receptionists. Everyone knew both Slugger and Pooker. They were a favorite pair for the hospital staff.

As we arrived home, Bob carried the box with Slugger into the house. Bailey met us at the door. He was curious about where we had gone and where Slugger was. Bob lay the open box on the floor. He had questioned whether Bailey, who celebrated his first birthday in June of this year, would be traumatized. My gut told me he would not be as I reminded Bob that we gave Slugger the opportunity to say goodbye to Pooker. “My intuition tells me it’s a good thing to do. That way, Bailey won’t feel confused as to what happened to Slugger. Nor would the cats.”

Bob stood as I sat on the sofa. Bailey sniffed Slugger as did Skeeter. Sassy was asleep somewhere else in the house. Later, I realized that my intuition was right as I acknowledged that Bailey’s behavior was calm as if he recognized that death was the natural order of life.

Slugger is now in the hands of the crematorium owners. They will return him to us in a few days. They will place him and the blanket in a small box with scroll carvings on the lid and a gold plaque on the front. It will read:

SLUGGER
OUR SWEET LITTLE BOY
YOU GAVE US MORE THAN WE COULD GIVE YOU

Bob calls me the queen of catalogs because of all the catalogs I receive. I’ve been shopping over the internet way before it became popular, so everyone who gets a list of catalog buyers gets my name and address. I do love my catalogs with all the merchandise I can dream of buying. One item, in particular, speaks to me. It’s a doormat which reads, “Ring the doorbell, let me sing you a song of my people. The dog.” As such, let me sing you a song of my Slugger and Pooker. I promise not to keep you too much longer.

The day Bob and I met both Slugger and Pooker took place shortly after losing our first little boy, Skipper. Skipper also died from diabetes which is common in Schnauzers. However, unlike Type 2 diabetes for humans, canine diabetes is a death sentence. It behaves as does Type 1 human diabetes.

Skipper died the first evening we moved from Naperville, IL to rejoin Bob in the Nashville, TN area.

Skipper wasn’t gone long before Bob expressed, “Maribeth, you need another dog.” Unsaid was the same for him. “We” needed another dog to fill the hole left by Skipper.

Skipper was a Miniature Schnauzer. We fell in love with his breed, and, so we decided to find another miniature.

Bob contacted a professor who taught at the University of Tennessee. He owned and showed schnauzers. He gave Bob the name of a married couple in the Knoxville, TN area who bred and showed schnauzers. The couple’s two females had just birthed a litter each. Most of the puppies had been spoken for, but, from talking to Bob said they had a male who would be a perfect match. That puppy was Slugger.

The day we drove to John and Diane Steffy’s house, I felt completely detached from reality. I was still deep in mourning of Skipper, My Little Boy Blue. We sat on their sofa as John brought two puppies into the room. One of the puppies was energetic and playful. He ran around the room chasing toys. The other puppy walked over to me and raised himself so that his front paws rested on my knees. As I looked at him, I immediately fell in love with him, so I picked him up as he rested on my lap. Still feeling removed from the event, about a half hour later, Bob said, “It’s decision time, Maribeth.”  I responded, “Well, if I have to choose, I chose this one (on my lap), but I’d like to take both of them home.” Although I was in a fog that day, my intuition was not at all asleep. I could tell from their behavior that both puppies were emotionally attached.   Diane Steffy said, “John and I will leave you two alone for a few minutes.”

Once gone, Bob asked, “Can we afford both puppies?” I am the designated financial officer in our marriage, so I knew from the huge profit from our Naperville home, we could indeed afford both. I said, “Yes.” The matter was settled. The Steffy’s returned to the living room, and we were soon on our way with the two puppies.

As we headed back to the Interstate, we decided to stop at the Petsmart store just off the exit to buy the boys collars and leashes. The smallest puppy who won my heart immediately fell to sleep. The happy-go-lucky dog who also sat on my lap now was wide awake. I could intuit that he wasn’t as sure of what was taking place as was his half-brother.

Before leaving the Steffy home, we learned that the puppies had the same father but different mothers. The smallest puppy was nine-days younger than the larger puppy. I had already decided that the larger puppy would be named Slugger after the Louisville Slugger baseball bat. I believe that Skipper had communicated that name to me during an earlier event. Bob liked the name. He would choose the name for the younger puppy.

As we pulled our vehicle into the Petsmart parking space, I could tell that Slugger still didn’t feel comfortable. I’m sure he could sense that my first choice was his smaller brother. Nonetheless, I was determined to change Slugger’s mind.

The puppies in the cart were a hit in the store. Once we made our purchase, a red collar, and leash for Slugger, and a blue collar and leash for his brother, we walked out to the parking lot. We opened the back door to our SUV, placed both puppies on the inside pad and put their collars and leashes on.   Bob grabbed the little puppy while I grabbed Slugger. The minute we put the puppies on the ground I saw a visible change take over Slugger. He was now confident that he was where he was supposed to be. It was amazing to see this event.  My intuition was alive and well. Slugger was going home.

Life with the puppies was a trip. Soon Bob asked if he could name the smaller puppy Pooker. It was a loving nickname he had given Skipper whom he would walk every day after arriving home from work.

One Sunday morning, as I sat at the kitchen table, I heard a strange noise. I called up to Bob and asked, “What are you doing up there. You’re making a lot of noise.” He answered, “Nothing. I’m sitting at my desk reading the newspaper.” I then thought, Uh, oh, what are the boys up to? I got up, walked into the foyer and turned to my left which was the dining room area of our very open floor plan. There the two dogs were. Pooker was down at one end of the huge dining room window, and Slugger was at the opposite end. The window sat only inches from the floor. They were facing each other as they ate the window sill working their way to the middle. The house and sill were brand new. We had purchased a spec house just in time before another buyer put a check down for it. And so began the story of our two sweet little boys who both grew to become wonderful grown-up boys. With all our hearts, Bob and I hope that one day, we will reunite with Slugger, Pooker and all our past wonderful fur children.  They all taught us far more than we taught them.  They love unconditionally, never consider divorce and bring us joy every minute they are near.

Until we meet again, sweet babies, play hard and love harder!

3 Comments

Filed under Maribeth Shanley, memory

Getting Older by John E. Stack

Hey all, I was sitting around the other day and I noticed that my joints hurt.  My knees were killing me and I could hardly straighten my back.  When I tried to stand it was mission impossible.  I hobbled to the bathroom to get something for the pain and what I saw nearly scared me to death.  I think my house is haunted.

We have this great big mirror in our bathroom.  I try not to look too deeply into it because I’ve read too many stories where you see something that is not supposed to be there.  I have read where people see other worlds, where people can walk into the mirror and transport somewhere else, people walk out of the mirror from who knows where, or they may see something really scary.  I think that may be what happened to me.

Anyway, I decided to look into the mirror to check and see if there was anything wrong on the outside of me.  Much to my surprise, looking back at me was an old guy with really gray hair and glasses.  He was fairly chubby, and generally looked like he had been put through the wringer.  Bad thing was that when I moved, so did he.  Every move I tried, he duplicated.  I knew that it must be a haunted mirror or some kind of trick my wife was trying to play on me.

The poor old guy looked really bad.  Maybe if he hit the gym, lost some weight, and tried to iron out some of those wrinkles he might not look so bad.  Then I noticed something familiar about him.  He looked a lot like my dad.  He had the same nose, but his ears weren’t big enough.  He had lots of hair, though it be gray, where dad had hair on the sides and back, but none on the top.  It just couldn’t be my dad because he has been gone for many, many years.  Must be a coincidence.

Something strange was going on and I had to figure it out.  The more I looked the more I realized that it couldn’t be me.  I wasn’t that old.  Last I looked I was around forty-five, and that guy wasn’t even close to that age.  But, wait a minute, my daughters are forty-two, forty and nine.  When did that happen?  I might be older but not that old.  It seems like the girls just got married only a short time age and Allie was just getting ready to start school.  Where did time go?

I was starting to feel sick.  My stomach hurt.  I was dizzy.  I could hardly see because my bi-focal’s were dirty.  Bi-focal’s?  Yeah, okay.  Anyway, I just wasn’t feeling all that well.  I thought that maybe if I passed out, things would be back to normal when I woke up, even if I was at the hospital.

I decided to check one more thing before I called the doctor.  I would check my driver’s license because it would have my birthdate and a picture.  As I looked at it I could tell the picture had been altered.  I knew it.  My wife had been up to her practical jokes again. Well, maybe not. With these dirty glasses, who can tell what they are looking at.

Then something else fell out of my billfold.  It was a red, white and blue card that said welcome to Medicare.  As the tears poured from my eyes, I knew it must be true.  That wrinkled up old guy had to be me.

It is hard to believe, but yes, this is the year I thought I would never see.  In a couple of days I will be sixty-five.  Two to be exact.  Life has been good but these last few years have flown by.  It is almost time to retire, but not quite.  I still have a nine-year-old to help raise.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the ZooOlivia’s Sweet Adventure and Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

 

6 Comments

Filed under fun, Humor, John Stack, life, writing