Things I Wish my Sheltie Knew

Memo to my Darling Doggie:

1) There’s no prize for beating me up or down the stairs. So you won — big deal. You also took a chance I’d step on you or cause us both to topple to the ground when you cut in front of me. In short: it wasn’t a race, okay?

2) I can use the bathroom by myself. Seriously. It’s unnecessary for you to follow me in there, to make sure I’m doing what I said I’d be doing. I’ve been doing things like this for years now, without your help, and while I appreciate your concern, it’s misplaced.

3) Lunchtime is for me, not you. As an “adult” dog, you’re supposed to get one meal per day. Because you’re so insistent, I’ve split that meal into two smaller servings, one at breakfast and the other at dinner. So when I eat at noon, I eat — not you. And stop that begging with your soulful eyes — you’re one tough customer to turn down!

4) The vacuum cleaner is not an assassin. Thank you for trying to protect me, but carpets need to be swept now and then. The “sweeper” isn’t attacking me just because it’s moving forth and back and making a roaring sound. And no, I won’t chase you all over the house with it!

5) There’s NO food in the backyard. I try to keep your “leavings” picked up, but I can’t prevent other animals (cats, squirrels, rabbits, etc.) from using the lawn as their bathroom. However, those leavings are not tasty morsels left outside for your dining pleasure. Besides, that’s just gross!

6) I don’t particularly like cutting your toenails and cleaning your ears. I do it because that’s one of the silent bargains I made when I took you into my home. Somebody would be responsible for doing for you what you couldn’t do for yourself. So be still and let me finish; this will go quicker and less painfully if you cooperate.

7) One bark is sufficient. When the doorbell rings, you really don’t have to bark a dozen times to let me know. I heard you the first time, and trust me, whoever’s there won’t simply go away! That goes for the annoying squirrel playing in our neighbor’s tree, too.

8) Suitcases don’t mean forever. I take you on trips when I can, but sometimes I can’t. Pulling out suitcases doesn’t mean I’m leaving forever, and it’s really not necessary for you to slink off into a corner and pout.

Love, Mom

The Evolution of Restrooms

“You can’t go in there!”

I overheard this as I was eating a sandwich at one of our fast food places. I know fast food isn’t good for you, but this blog isn’t about eating!

When I looked up, I noticed a mother, accompanied by her two young daughters and their brother, heading into the ladies’ restroom. It was the littlest girl who made the warning, adding, “Boys aren’t allowed.”

That took me back a dozen or so years to the time when My Favorite Domer was little and I, too, faced the dilemma of “potty time.”

Back in the day, there were only two choices — the Men’s Room or the Ladies’ Room.

A little boy is on the way to becoming a man, but he’s not there yet. He still needs mom’s help, her warnings not to touch anything “because it’s not clean” and her focus (“this-isn’t-time-for-playing-in-the-water”).

And he needs to be protected from all those perverts lurking in the Men’s Room.

Because mom knows that’s where they are.

So she takes him with her to the Ladies’ Room.

As a youngster, he doesn’t particularly care one way or another. He just has to potty. But somewhere around elementary school age, he knows boys use the Men’s Room and girls use the Ladies’ Room.

He balks at having to go into a room for girls and do that. “I can do it myself” is his war-cry.

So mom sends him into foreign territory alone. Standing sentry by the door, she waits on pins and needles for her charge to emerge. Her biggest fear is when some big, burly guy approaches the door and attempts entry.

Should she simply smile and tell him the room is occupied?

The entire room? Nah, that wouldn’t work.

So as he opens the door, she hollers, “Are you finished in there, honey?”

Son dashes out wearing a red face; big, burly guy chuckles, and mom races with son to the car.

To await the next time.

This isn’t any easier on dads who escort their young daughters on jaunts outside their home. I can remember at least once being asked by some blushing dad to watch his daughter for a few minutes while she pottied in the Ladies’ Room.

Guess that’s why there are family bathrooms now. What a cool idea!

Writing for Fun??

The co-editorial director of Publisher’s Weekly, speaking in a recent interview, said self-published authors typically sell less than 100 copies of their book, compared to the 10,000 copies a well-selling traditionally-published book will move.

Sad, isn’t it?

When a friend showed me this statistic in AARP The Magazine, I couldn’t believe it.

The article went on to compare two first-time writers. Both penned memoirs; both were over 50.

There the similarities end.

One sold more than half a million copies of her book; the other logged a measly 20 downloads to e-readers.

The difference? The first author has a traditional publisher, while the second is self-published.

Now that’s a pretty significant difference.

I hate the thought of laboring for years to produce a book I’m proud of, a book people will want to buy and read, if only a handful are going to bother doing either.

It’s like trying to carry sand in a sieve.

The quandary between self-publishing and traditional publishing is nothing new. Many of us are dealing with it right now. In fact, my friend Lynne Spreen over at Any Shiny Thing recently blogged about this very subject.

There don’t seem to be any easy answers, either. Especially when you realize that you the author are going to have to promote your book, regardless of how you publish it.

Anyway, the AARP article goes on to talk about how many “older authors” want to share their stories, profit or not. And how many vanity, e-book, and other self-publishing options exist for those who do. And how “easy” it is to become self-published — nearly three-fourths of a million nontraditional books came out in 2009, compared with fewer than 300,000 traditional titles.

This publishing guru speculates the market for self-published works will grow as more people accept the technology.

His advice in the meantime? Write for fun, not for finance.

Say what?

When did writing a book become fun? Every real writer I know, including meself, calls it Hard Work.

And to embark on that journey expecting no remuneration is foolish.

I suppose people with nothing but time on their hands, or celebrities with a hefty trust fund and a full-blown ego, can afford to laze about and tinker with penning a novel, then pay somebody to publish it, not caring what happens after that.

The rest of us sweat bullets to get every comma in the right place, choose the right POV, work and re-work plot, act out our scenes with dialog, check pacing, and a thousand-and-one other details.

All in the hopes of finding the right agent. The right publisher. The right market.

Because this is our baby, and it deserves nothing less than our best.

Why shouldn’t we expect payment, regardless of how we publish?

Take the Bad with the Good

While wandering the aisles of Wal-Mart recently, I couldn’t help noticing how many babies and tiny tots there were — in car seats, baskets, somebody’s arms, toddling behind parents.

Every stage in life is beautiful in its own way, but I’ve gotta admit there are so many things I don’t miss about being the mom of an infant or little child:

  • Diapers. Ugh, the stench! They were like the Energizer bunny, too — kept coming and coming….
  • Interrupted sleep. You do what you’ve got to do, but that getting-up-every-two-hours stuff is for the birds.
  • Paraphernalia. Baby bottles, special toys, diaper bags, strollers, Cheerios, books — anything to keep the kid entertained for a few seconds!
  • Sleepovers. How many parents have patience to supervise six to eight small boys for an entire night, knowing those boys’ parents are probably out enjoying themselves with dinner and a movie?
  • Birthday parties. From invitations to party favors to choice of location this is a lesson in organization, conciliation, and often aggravation!
  • Candyland. Who invented that inane game, anyway?
  • Temper tantrums. Okay, mine didn’t do this one (seriously!), but having observed other parents try to coax or bribe or threaten their kids when they refused to behave, it’s going on the list.

Now, before all of you start thinking I’m a rotten mother (which My Favorite Domer will assure you I’m most definitely not!), there are some things I do miss about his childhood:

  • That “sweet baby” smell. The one that’s a combination of “sleep” and “clean clothes” and “baby powder.”
  • Impromptu flowers. Usually dandelions, but it was the thought that counted!
  • Rocks. Playing outfield during Tee-ball was a good time for MFD to fill his pockets with “special” rocks. He never seemed to know what made them special, though.
  • Reading together. Every night, we’d read stacks of books (that is, I acted out the stories while he giggled and begged for more). Silly me, I listened to the “experts” who promised that reading to a child would make a “reader” out of them. Yeah, right!
  • Crayon pictures. Art projects in the early grades are great at keeping parents informed on their child’s budding future as the next Picasso!
  • Learning new things. And watching that “light bulb moment” when an idea or skill takes hold.
  • Little notes. Sometimes it was an apology, other times it was a thank you, but often I found scrawled notes left for me after MFD went to bed — things he meant deeply but didn’t feel comfortable expressing out loud. The acorn just doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?!
  • Big hugs. Oh, yeah. Does any mom ever get enough of them?

How sad life would have been without all these special moments!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!

It’s less than three weeks away now!

Of course, I’m referring to Mardi Gras (AKA Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday).

Last year, I blogged about King Cakes, one of the many traditions surrounding this day of feasting and celebration before the somber 40-day period called Lent. Today, I’m going to talk about the colors of Mardi Gras.

Now you might consider it odd that a person living in Central Illinois, U.S.A., would be so enthralled with a season far removed by distance, but I lived many years along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where Mardi Gras is celebrated, Big Time!

Right after Jan. 6 (Feast of the Epiphany), Carnival Season gets underway. Kings, Queens, and Parade Marshals are announced, individual krewe themes are revealed, and the partying begins.

There are parades featuring decorated floats, live bands, and plenty of beads and doubloons for everybody; there are formal balls (I’m talking tux and ball gown formal!) for invited members and guests; there are more traditions than you can shake a stick at.

Even the colors of Mardi Gras are traditional. Back in 1872, Carnival King Rex selected Purple (symbolizing justice), Green (faith), and Gold (power) as colors for the festivities, and they stuck.

Oddly enough, it was the colors of Mardi Gras that influenced the selection of colors for two of Louisiana’s then-rival universities. According to the SEC Sports Fan Website, the folks from Louisiana State University originally had blue and white as their school colors, but, hoping to celebrate their first football game against Tulane University, they wanted a change.

Some of the guys and their coach went into New Orleans to find colored ribbon to brighten up their gray jerseys. It being just a few months before Mardi Gras season, all they could find were purple and gold cloths (the green had yet to be delivered).

LSU picked up the purple and gold to make rosettes and badges, leaving Tulane to purchase the green when it finally arrived. This they combined with blue to arrive at their school colors.

Curious about my headline? It’s a Cajun expression meaning, “Let the good times roll!”

Of Dogs and Cats

I read the results of an Associated Press poll today that said some 60 percent of American pet owners believe it’s okay to declaw a cat but 8 percent think it’s wrong to de-bark a dog.

Are they crazy?

First off, I’m not a cat-lover. Never have been. In fact, despite my nickname, I’ve been afraid of cats since I was a child and reached beneath a bush to pet one, only to have the imp rake its claws down the inside of my forearm.

No scars, but oh, the pain!

Still, to anesthetize a pet kitty and basically remove the first digits of its paws sounds cruel to me.

I understand some owners’ concerns about those claws. Cats do scratch — kids in the family, people who come over to visit, the furniture, the walls, whatever.

That can’t be pretty.

But cats are hunters and about the only way they can protect themselves is by scratching.

So they need their claws.

Seems to me that’s the price one pays for wanting to “own” a cat, if that’s even possible!

As for dogs, well, I’ve been a dog lover most of my life, and I can’t even visualize why someone would consider removing a dog’s vocal cords, thereby rendering it unable to bark.

While some breeds are more “vocal” than others, an owner must assess why the dog is barking — boredom, anxiety, attention-seeking, playfulness, or because every other dog around is barking (the “me, too” factor!)

Owners also should not leave Fido outside for long periods of time to annoy the neighbors; they should make sure the dog gets plenty of exercise to release pent-up energy.

I know someone who raises dogs and had several de-barked because of the constant clamor. The little things now kind of squeak, a breathy noise that sounds painful to me, though the owner says they’re not in pain and the procedure was fairly routine.

Dogs are supposed to bark. That’s their warning signal that something’s amiss. True, it might be nothing more than a squirrel tight-roping across the power lines and jumping into a nearby tree, but they’re going to let the world know about it!

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Valentine’s Day?

Call me jaded, but I dislike Valentine’s Day.

Really dislike it.

It started, I think, in grade school, when we were instructed (no, coerced) to provide a Valentine for every member of our class.

Funny how the card manufacturers know just how many kids are in typical classrooms!

Anyway, a few days before the “event,” we’d create these elaborate construction paper envelopes in Art class to hold the Valentines we’d be receiving. Covered with doilies, hearts, and flowers, the envelopes would be things we could treasure.


Little kids of opposite sex rarely like each other (unless you consider those oh-so-private crushes that nobody knew about!). Still, we’d think long and hard about which Valentine card to give to which classmate, hoping the one with the “mushy” verse didn’t go to the kid nobody liked!

Or the teasing would start.

I don’t know what our teachers would have done, had somebody “miscounted” and omitted a classmate. It might have happened, but I didn’t know of it.

When the day was done, we’d carry our treasures home and go through each one, wondering who meant what by the card that was chosen.

Looking back, it was probably nothing more than, “Help me get through this awful chore as fast as possible!”

Fast-forward to my twenties when my dislike of Valentine’s Day was reinforced — big time. One of my grandfathers had to go to the hospital on Feb. 14 for a “routine” medical test on his heart; he never made it out alive.

I know he’s in a better place, but his death cast a pall on the holiday, one that’s hard to put aside.

Today, Valentine’s Day seems like such forced frivolity. An excuse to spend a lot of money buying candy or jewelry or flowers or whatever for your sweetie.

A Hallmark kind of day.

That’s all fine, but if you love someone, should you be telling him/her that every day?

I think I’ll grab a bite of chocolate and ponder that a while!

Meself Memetastic

Woo-Hoo, Happy Dance! I just got an award!

This morning while reading some of my favorite blogs, I came to my friend Hippie Cahier and there was my blog’s name!

I’ve been chosen. No more sitting on the sidelines while the cool, popular kids get picked for the basketball team!

Woo-Hoo. Again.

I got something called the Memeststic Award (pronounced “meem-tastic”), and here’s the proof:

memetastic award

I’ve seen this thing around on blogs for a while now, and I’ve gotta say, Awesome! Thanks! I’m honored!

And to think I was planning on doing only Web Design today!

Anyway, this prize comes with a bunch of qualifications, to wit:

1) You must proudly display this disgusting graphic, with its Comic Sans font and its jumping, celebrating kitten created by jillsmo (she’s the one who created it; I guess she has the right to call it “disgusting”).

2) You must list 5 things about yourself, 4 of which must be bold-faced lies. That means one must be true. Quality is irrelevant.

3) You must pass this award along to 5 bloggers whom you like, don’t like, or don’t have an opinion about. You can list what you like or don’t like, of course, but it’s not necessary.

4) If you fail to follow any of the above rules, Jill will hunt you down and harass you unceasingly until, she says, “you either block me on Twitter or ban my IP address from visiting your blog. I don’t know if you can actually do that last thing, but I will become so annoying to you that you will actually go out and hire an IT professional to train you on how to ban IP addresses just so that I’ll leave you alone. I’m serious. I’m going to do these things.” Methinks she probably means it!

5) Once you’ve complied with everything, you need to link to the Memetastic Hop so Jill can keep track of where the award goes.

Now for my Memetastic Lies (remember, one of these is True!!):

1) Alas, I’m tone- deaf. Can’t carry a tune in a bucket. All that and Irish, too!

2) I became the star of cooking class in the eighth grade when I took one look at that sink full of dishes and asked, “Where’s the dishwasher?”

3) Not bragging, but I got my private pilot’s license before I got my auto driver’s license.

4) I have no sense of direction. I’d get lost on the way to town, were it not for my trusty GPS.

5) Shopping for shoes is a real problem — I wear extra narrow widths (that’s AAA). Can you say “online shopping at Zappos”??

And now — ta da! — for my nominees to receive the next Memetastic Award:

1) Lynne Spreen at Any Shiny Thing. She’s a writer and retired Human Resources guru, as well as a new grandma.

2) Linda at Crone and Bear It. Despite her being a rabid Ohio State fan, she’s funny and has an adorable Golden Retriever named EmmaLou.

3) Working Tech Mom. She manages 500 tech professionals and has a family. That exhausts me!

4) Kim Holloway at Stuff Southern People Like. She makes me laugh, she makes me miss Mississippi!

5) Izziedarling at The Whatever Factor. Oh so funny, oh so witty, and such a magnet for bird poop!

Now get cracking, people! You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind (old Irish saying).

Come Back Home

At church yesterday morning, I was shocked to hear our priest point out that the number of people (parishioners) attending weekend Masses was down — way down.

So I glanced to my right and left and found he was right. There were lots of vacant spaces in the pews.

Our diocese has a new bishop, but to my knowledge there has been no relaxation on the requirements for church attendance on weekends and holy days. And I’m sure news of that magnitude would have caused at least a small furor!

That got me to thinking about why people avoid church services on Sunday (or Saturday, for us Catholics):

  • Weather. Yes, it’s been horrid, and we’ve had more than our share of ice, snow, and cold, but people still get out to do what they want. Some run to the bank; others to their weekly hairdresser appointment; still others to the mall or Wal-Mart or to cards with their buddies. Sorry, this one won’t fly!
  • Age. I’ve heard some of the older members excuse themselves because they’ve “earned a rest,” or because they ache, or because they don’t feel like leaving their comfortable home and driving to church. Where in the Bible does it say we get to “earn” a respite? I can understand if a person is truly ill, he/she doesn’t belong in church, but “not feeling like it” doesn’t fly!
  • Schedule. Some people stay away from church because they don’t like the times of the services. Really? Since when is that an excuse? If your boss says you’re to report for work at 8 a.m., do you get to tell him you’d rather sleep in until 10? I think not!
  • Anger. Ongoing criticism of church sex scandals, anger with a clergyman from the distant past, slights perceived or real, disagreement with church policy, etc. aren’t valid excuses for avoiding church, in my book. Now I’m sure some people really have a bone to pick — maybe they’ve been personally hurt, or know people who have. But living with that kind of anger can only make them ill. No church is perfect because it’s made up of imperfect people. You can find something to complain about anywhere, if that’s what you look for.

I suspect there are valid reasons for missing church — being in the hospital, or maintaining a vigil at a loved one’s deathbed, are two I can think of. But it saddens me when people avoid the community of church, the nourishment of the Eucharist, the graces extended, and the opportunity to praise and worship.

Freedom of religion is a blessing — just ask someone who doesn’t have it!

“Snowmageddon” in Central Illinois

Figuring I should post these ice and snow pictures before the next onslaught of wicked weather, here are some of the shots I took while tip-toeing around my neighborhood yesterday. Enjoy!

Ice-encrusted tree branches

Rosebush covered with icicles

Snow and ice on holly

Spruce "decorated" with ice and snow

Lamp post wearing this season's fashionable icy shade

Ice on the north side of trees