Outward Hound

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No, the title of this blog post is not a typo. Read on . . .

My family and I love to hike. Well, I should clarify that statement. They love to hike and I love to hike myself up on a barstool and order a cold one. My husband and girls are more interested in scaling peaks like this monster:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“I believe I’ll sit this one out. I hear a glass of chardonnay yodeling my name.”

Or this one:

Grand Teton Afternoon

“Don’t worry, family. I’ll keep the search and rescue team on speed-dial.”

I think they are crazy.

Every now and then, I’ll begrudgingly agree to go on a hike as long as there is the promise of a picnic lunch in a pristine location at the end of the trail. Like this one:

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Great spot for a picnic, eh? 

One obstacle we face when we consider going on a hike is what to do with our dog William. He is a miniature dachshund and his idea of fun is hiking up to a bowl of dog treats. I don’t blame him. His legs are about 6 inches long and he has to take twenty steps to one of mine. He is what you would call indoorsy.

We found what we thought would be the perfect solution to our dilemma. It is a backpack called a Pooch Pouch made by a company called Outward Hound. Their tag line is “Raise the Woof.”

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Okay, in truth we bought the backpack because we loved the name and the play on words amused.

William was less than amused.

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William is what you would call, “not a happy camper.”

The Pooch Pouch is well-constructed, has zippered pockets, mesh sides, padded shoulder straps, etc. The idea of it seemed like William’s Ticket to Paradise (sorry Eddie Money).

However, the design is not dog-friendly. William considered it a form of torture. He couldn’t get comfortable and wanted his head out of the top, which meant he was strangulated for the 4-mile hike. Because there is no structure to the pouch part of the Pooch Pouch, it is the equivalent of cramming your dog into a well-ventilated gunnysack and throwing it on your back. The hike made William slightly seasick. Or should I say hike-sick.

I don’t think he has forgiven us.

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“Look at the gray hair that hike gave me!”

 

Won thing a bout otto-correct . . .

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Won grate thing I really enjoy about otto-correct and spell-cheque is that ewe don’t need two worry a bout making typos. Otto-correct bales you out of a whole! I can’t bare too make mistakes. Like my righting piers, I have a flare for righting, which is awl dew two my patients at the keyboard and a hole lot of hard work. Otto-correct makes you’re job as a righter is much easier.

But I use lots of fowl language when I type fore ate hours and then my computer crashes when I take a brake two bye a peace of pi. It is undo punishment! When that happens I want too hop on a plain two Aruba, which is a beautiful aisle. Ore go out for some ail at my local pub. You pore you heart and sole into something and then have two prey it won’t be throne into oblivion by a vary evil heroin hoo has come too medal. I’m libel two ripe my hair out. What a jamb for a rider too bee in. It is reel in tents. It makes me want two dye right on the sight, ball my I’s out until I am blew in the face, and clothes up shop. It’s just not fare.

I here some righters have learned the hard lessen and role with the punches. Not me . . . I stay soar for daze. And I am likely too whale for a weak. By I am knot a loud two dew that. My Ant Alice and my bow Richard are vary strict a bout my manors. Butt they always say, “There, they’re, their.”

Oh gosh, that was painful to right, er, uh, ahem . . . I mean write.

All jokes and terrible writing aside, my iPhone autocorrected the word “excellent” to “excrement” in a text to our daughter. The pour poor girl didn’t know what to think.

I know you can disable autocorrect, but sometimes the autocorrectedness (is that a word?) of it all amuses.

Ron Burgandy

 

 

Our Daughter is Home Safe and Sound from Afghanistan . . . Thank Goodness

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I didn’t know it, but my body has been clenched for nine months. It unclenched with a whoosh when I received this text from our daughter who has been stationed in Afghanistan for the past nine months:

“I’m in New Hampshire!!!!”

My toes, hair follicles, teeth, gut, and every other body part you can think of relaxed as soon as I read those four words. (Can hair follicles clench? I think so. Mine did.)

Our daughter’s Army unit is finally stateside and they are all in one piece. Weary, but whole.Thank the lord.

During her deployment, many people asked me/said:

“How are you doing?”

“It must be terribly hard for you.”

“I can’t imagine how worried you must be.”

“Do you think about it night and day?”

My pat answer was, “I don’t think about it.”

That isn’t entirely true because I thought about her deployment nonstop. However, I didn’t allow those thoughts to enter my pea-brain. Otherwise, I would have been more of a raving lunatic of worry than I already am.

That would have done no one any good. And I don’t look good in a straight-jacket.

Plus, all my worries wouldn’t have changed the fact that our daughter was called to do what she has always wanted to do . . . serve her county.

And she did so brilliantly. She was the only female in her unit and immediately assumed a leadership role among her peers. She received a commendation by the Major General at Bagram Air Force Base for selfless service during the Women’s History Month celebration in March. Think speeches, framed certificate, write-up in the newspaper, and after-party complete with a sheet cake heavily frosted in red, white, and blue.

The nature of her work in Afghanistan is top-secret (I think James Bond was in her unit) so we don’t know what she exactly did to deserve the selfless service award, but I’m sure it wasn’t making coffee for the General.

As she put it, her unit was doing badass intelligence work to get the bad guys. And they got ‘em. Or, at least some of them. Unfortunately, more  brave soldiers remain in Afghanistan to deal with the others who want to cause harm.

Our daughter is back at her dutybase for a few weeks and then gets a two-week leave to come home. I’ve lined up menus of every comfort food I can think of, already have beer chilling on ice, clean sheets on her bed await, a beach towel is laid out on the chaise by our pool, and a welcome home party with our friends and family is on the books.

She may be in bed or on the pool chaise for the entire party and if she is, I can’t say I would blame her.

It is funny, in a not-so-funny way, how the mind can compartmentalize worry, fear, dread . . . whatever. I allowed that fear to pop its ugly head out for brief moments and then would busy myself with putting together a care package to send to her instead of wallowing in my angst.

As William F. Buckley, Jr. said, “Industry is the enemy of melancholy.”

Amen to that, Bill.

I made myself industrious for nine months. Maybe now I can relax. Or at least relax until her next deployment.

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Our daughter is such a delicate flower. I mean, badass. Welcome home, honey.

 

P.S. Our daughter entered the Army in July of 2012. For those of you have been around this blog since 2012, you might remember that I did a series of blog posts that recapped her letters home from bootcamp. If I do say so myself, the posts are entertaining. I can say that because the words in those posts are hers. She did a great job of capturing her experience. I’ll say this . . . her idea of fun is way different than mine. If interested, click on July 2012 on the top-ish left side of this humble blog.

Here’s to Dads!

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Happy Father’s Day, gents! That is, assuming you are a father.

Being a father today is a much different beast than 50 years ago. I know this anecdotally from my vast experience of being fathered by my father, as well as from watching my husband being a father. I also have the facts to back up my claim. Thank you U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Let’s take a look at some numbers from California, shall we?

In 1960, 61% of dads were veterans. In 2014, only 6% of dads were veterans. I’ll add here that my dad served in the Navy for 20 years.

Single dads ran 0.8% of the families (with no mother present) in 1960. That is a tiny percentage as compared 7% in 2014. Is it just me or does 7% seem low?

Higher education was less likely in 1960 where a mere 15% of dads held a bachelor’s degree. In 2014, 34% of dads have college degrees.

This statistic really speaks of how times have changed. Think Rob and Laura Petri. In 1960, 70% of dad’s were the family’s sole breadwinner, while in 2014, that percentage had dropped to 31%.

To sum it up, fewer of today’s dads in California have witnessed the horrors of war, more are taking on childrearing solo, they are better educated, and the burden of financially supporting the family is shared to a much greater extent.

And, they help around the house much more. Thank the lord for that one! Dads spend 6 hours more per week doing housework (my husband says that number is way too low) and 4.5 hours more per week on childcare.

I don’t remember my father EVER wielding a dust rag or watching us kids because mom was out. He never helped make dinner and would sit at the table while mom (or us kids) did the dishes. For that matter, he never did a load of laundry, made a grocery store run, packed a school lunch, volunteered in a classroom, or helped with homework. To be fair, he did coach my brothers’ Little League team and took us camping.

Dad was a kind man and by the standards of the 1960s, he was a fine upstanding father. By today’s benchmarks, he would get an F-. Or maybe expelled from fatherdom.

I think this it is an excellent turn of events . . . this whole fathers-playing-a-more-active-role-in-the-family-unit thing. Everyone benefits, but especially the dads. They get to experience the joys of being a part of a family instead of producing children and then going off to work. It makes me sad to think of the fun my dad missed out on with us kids.

And, this is my first Father’s Day without my dad. That is sad too.

Anyhoo, hats off to you daddy-o-s out there. Being a father is a noble profession and you are filling the bill brilliantly. Well done you.

And Happy Father’s Day to my husband who has done all the things (and more) that my dad didn’t do. He is a man who has embraced fatherhood to the fullest. And he is blessed with three daughters who adore him. I do too.

Two dads

Note the goofy dad photo bombing his girls. Also note my dad in the uniform to the left.

 

 

 

 

 

CVS and Me – A Follow-up

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Well, folks . . . I’m not as dumb as I look.

Quit yer snickering.

As per my blog post HERE, CVS Pharmacy issues mile-long receipts, much to the consternation of those concerned with the environment and our nation’s forests. And whiners just like me.

In addition to the mile-long receipts, CVS fills my email in-box with 30% off coupons, surveys, ads for what is on sale, and pictures of the Kardashians. I’m kidding about the Kardashian pictures. The Kardashians themselves send me those.

The cool thing about the 30% off coupon emails is you can magically send them to your Extracare card, et viola, you get 30% off your purchase without having to remember to bring the darn coupon to the store.

“Why are you going on and on about CVS, Robin?” say you.

“Good question, but bear with me . . . I have a point.” say I.

“A likely story, Robin,” say you.

“Oh ye of little faith,” say I.

As was promised in the Fortune magazine article I mentioned, I found out how you can opt-out of having the in-store coupons printed on your receipt.

Pay attention. This is the part about how I’m not as dumb as I look. There will be a test on it later.

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CVS came through on their promise to save trees. 

I swear I won’t continue blabbering drivel about mundane topics such as receipts Instead, I will soon be entertaining you with fascinating subjects such as me, myself, and I.

 

CVS and Me

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A word before I go on to write the rest of this blog post. Well, maybe more than just one word.

Not that I assume that any terrorist reads this blog or would even listen to me, but these senseless acts of violence and murder must stop. My heart (and all the world’s heart) is breaking for the families and friends who lost loved ones in these recent and not so recent tragedies. It is hard to make sense of the senseless.

The energy of that visceral hatred could be refocused to do so much good.

Peace to all who are hurting right now. Which in truth, means all of us.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

I love our local CVS Pharmacy. Is it minutes from our house and there is always a parking spot right in front. The pharmacist knows my name from all my Prozac . . . er . . . I mean, vitamin refills, it seems that whatever is on my list is on sale that day, and I know where everything is in the store. And, unlike a usual trip to Target where I go in for three items and mysteriously end up with a cart full of things I didn’t know I wanted or needed and a $325.36 bill, I can get out of CVS in under $20.

Okay, maybe under $50.

My issue with CVS is thusly. Why oh why the mile long receipts? I went to CVS today and purchased four greeting cards (to the tune of $14!) and picked up two prescriptions. My receipt was, and I kid you not, 37 inches long!

CVS and Me

Are you kidding me?

In addition to giving me a record of my transaction, I also received a summary of today’s and the year-to-date savings, an Extrabucks reward for $3.00, and six coupons for items that the evil marketers at CVS want to rope me into buying. They want me to say, “$7 off Geritol? Count me in!”

But, I’m hip to their nefarious plan and promptly threw away those coupons and pocketed the Extrabucks. Actually, Extrabucks are a little like winning the drugstore lottery.

I swear I could wallpaper Buckingham Palace thrice over with all of my CVS receipts. Queen Elizabeth would not be amused if I did.

The Queen’s Guard might get a chuckle out of it. I hear those guys are a laugh a minute.

A recent article in Fortune magazine promised the end of the mile-long CVS receipts starting in June of this year. Customers signed up with the CVS rewards program would have the chance to opt-out of paper receipts in favor of digital receipts.

Here it is mid-June and no opt-out option has crossed my path. Did I miss the chance to opt-out because I threw away a CVS receipt, or did perchance I plaster it on the wall of QE II’s bathroom?

 

 

Oh, Belize . . .

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Whoa! Lookie-here who popped back into the world-o-blogging for a moment! Moi!

I am embarrassed to say that my last blog post was over a year ago. Where did that year go?!? Much has happened which led to the sad detriment (maybe demise is a better word) of this humble blog, as well as any writing whatsoever on my part.

The short story is . . . My folks passed away at the end of last year a mere six weeks apart and I am the trustee of their estate, our daughter in the Army deployed to Afghanistan in September (she comes stateside in 10 days!), my husband was the president of his business association last year and we logged over 16,000 miles of travel up and down California. We invested in a craft brewery. We purchased a home in Boise. We tried to keep our heads screwed on. All of that made for zippo writing time. Oh, not to mention the paralyzing avoidance of writing a query letter for my (finished!) manuscript.

For those of you who followed this blog 2+ years ago, you may remember that my husband and I vacationed in Belize, which I chronicled HERE, HERE, and HERE. It was wonderful those 2+ years ago, so what the hell, so we went again last week.

We stayed on an atoll 25 miles off the coast of Belize and the only thing on the island besides the resort is a dirt airstrip and a marine research institute. That, and crocodiles in the lagoon. Gilligan might have been in a coconut tree, but I never spotted him. No Internet, phones, or television means you can read, drink margaritas poolside, and snorkel/scuba dive your heart out . . . which we did with great abandon.

Oh, Belize

Cocktail, anyone?

However, the strangest thing happened . . .

During my 4th or 5th excursion snorkeling, I started composing a blog post in my head. Yes, in the middle of my snorkel! Never mind the nurse shark near my knee or the puffer fish portside, I was writing in my head!

While not brilliant, it went something like this:

If Dr. Seuss had gone scuba diving or snorkeling in Belize before writing One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, the title might have been:

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Half Orange and Half Purple Fish, Silver Fish with a Yellow Tail and Racing Stripe, Black Fish with Neon Blue Polka-dots, Fish Dressed a Referee . . .

Dr. Seuss would have said, “Oh heck. Let’s just call the darn book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and be done with it.

Mother Nature had way too many rum punches before she designed the fish and coral of Belize. She must have whipped out her box of 64 Crayola crayons (remember those?) and went crazy. There is every size, shape, and color of fish you can imagine and I am sure Mother Nature woke up with one heck of a hangover the next day. But the result of her drinking binge is magnificent.

Writing a blog post whilst (how British of me) snorkeling is probably inadvisable given that fire coral, stingrays, sharks, lionfish and any number of other poisonous critters are close at hand.

But . . . a lovely thing happened to me while putting my life and several limbs at risk and inadvertently drinking gallons of the pristine waters of Belize . . . I started writing again.

Ahhh . . . thank you Belize.

 

A Mother’s Day Tribute

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My mom is missing. Well, her body is still with us, but the person she was isn’t here anymore.

As some of you know from past posts, my mom has dementia and has been slowly slipping away from us for years. She is now officially a shell of her former self. It is sad. She is in a memory care unit at a nursing home and the last time I saw her she didn’t know who I was.

I was very close to my mom when I was growing up. We were buddies.

Twenty years ago, before I understood what was happening to her brain, her behavior made me start to pull away from her. Her words and actions made it seem like she didn’t care about my family or me. I didn’t yet know she wasn’t able to process information. She lost her ability to empathize, whether it called for celebration or comfort.

Let me give you an example from about ten years ago:

Me: Mom! Guess what! I was promoted and received a nice raise.

Mom: Oh. I see. Did I tell you that Dad and I are going golfing in Monterey?

It hurt. I now know she couldn’t put the meaning of my words together and hid it by changing the subject. But numerous interactions like that damaged my relationship with her.

Mother’s Day is approaching (you are welcome for the reminder to call your mom) and it has me thinking . . .

I learned a lot of things from my mom. I’m not talking about sewing or properly sorting laundry, although she did teach me that kind of stuff as well. I am talking about intangibles like:

Surround yourself with books.

Music is a part of your soul.

If you are going to tell a story, make it interesting.

Stop to admire a rainbow, or for that matter, any form of Mother Nature’s bounty.

Take on an adventure.

Make an ordinary experience an adventure.

A meal with family and/or friends is more than just nourishment.

Set the table and light the candles . . . even if it is over reheated leftovers.

A home is not just where you hang your hat. A home must embrace you with comfort.

Dogs are a must.

Laugh often, even if it is at your own joke.

Why not dance when you clear the table?

Circa 1979.

Circa 1979.

So, my mom may be gone, but she a part of my being. I hope I have passed such things on to my girls. Rather than being sad about my mom’s condition, I try to remember the good times we had when she was whole.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there.

Nancy Drew Turns 85?!? How Can That Be?!?

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Nancy Drew, girl detective, turns 85 today. She sure has aged well. She doesn’t look a day over 18.

Why the heck is there a  clock in a field? Image Credit" Wikipedia

Why the heck is there a
clock in a field?
Image Credit: Wikipedia

As a preteenager, I was a Nancy Drew mystery groupie. I would devour a Nancy Drew book, sometimes two, in a day. I read every copy in my junior high school library, saved money to buy my own, and swapped copies with my equally nerdy best friend. My exasperated mom said to me, “For Pete’s sake, put down that book and go play outside!” I foiled her attempt at making me get exercise and took my book to the park and read it there.

Did you know that Ms. Drew has sold 9 million video games since 1998? I had no idea. The newest, which will debut May 19th is called “Nancy Drew: Fifty Shades of Grey.” KIDDING!! It is called “Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness” and is set on a ghostly ship in the Netherlands.

Jenn Fisher, president of the Nancy Drew fan club (there is a fan club?) said she likes the games because they put the player in Nancy’s shoes and into the crime-solving action. The chief executive of the maker of the video game, Her Interactive, said that she likes that girls have their own series of games. Let’s face it . . . it is a male-dominated world of video games bent on pretending to blow things up and kill people. On a side note, the last video game I played was Pong and I might have been reading a Nancy Drew book at the same time.

The maker of the Nancy Drew video games estimates that 90 percent of the games’ players are girls. I bet the other 10 percent is Bruce Jenner.

All jokes aside, the company also said they get a lot of fan mail from their gamers who say they the Nancy Drew video games have been inspired to make their own games and get involved in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Wow! A video game can do all that and solve mysteries too? Way to go, Nancy Drew! For being an old lady, you rock!

 

 

 

Taking the Abs out of Abercrombie & Fitch

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Before I get started, I’d like to say one word about the earthquake in Nepal. “Tragic.”

Now back to what else is on my mind . . .

In a daring move to bolster twelve-straight quarters of sagging sales, Abercrombie & Fitch is telling their overly-photoshopped male models to put on a damn shirt and cover-up those rippling coconut-oiled six-pack-abs.

It is about freaking time.

Those ads were selling nothing but sex to teenagers. I saw a gigantic billboard of a young man who was seductively leaning against a wall. His head was cropped off and he was bare-chest. Ironically, the only Abercrombie clothing shown on the billboard was two inches of his boxer shorts and three inches of his jeans with a semi-open fly.

Who was the target audience of that ad?

Certainly not teenage boys in the market for jeans and undies. . . but it drove prepubescent girls to plead with their mom to drive them to the nearest mall.

When our (now adult) daughters were at the impressionable ages of 10, 12, and 14, Abercrombie was THE place for kids their age to shop. If you didn’t wear Abercrombie, you were likely to find yourself ostracized and have to eat your lunch all by yourself.

As their mother, it was painful to witness the peer pressure.

I fell victim to our girls whining, begging, and crying and would take them to Abercrombie. I would bravely enter the store for a good two- to three-minutes and then quickly exit to find a bench where I would wait out the ordeal in peace. Unfortunately, the bench was never close enough to an establishment offering adult beverages.

Why would I race out of the store in search of a bar?

1. The music in Abercrombie is louder than an Iron Maiden concert with the amps turned to roughly the same decibel as a fighter jet upon takeoff.

2. They have scent machines that infuse the air with a sickeningly sweet Abercrombie perfume. It makes it hard to breathe and their trademark scent stays in your nose for days.

3. The clothing is ridiculously expensive and so poorly made that even teenagers in developing countries would say, “I’m not wearing that crap even though I made that stupid shirt.”

4. Larger-than-life photographs of scantily clad young men and women throughout the store make even Olympian marathoners have body image issues.

5. The salesclerks are the Abercrombie & Fitch version of the Stepford Wives. Identical, beautiful, and with a combined Body Mass Index equivalent to that of Kate Moss.

6. At special events, or at the drop of a hat, Abercrombie festoons their stores with shirtless male models who mingle with the customers. It is like a teenage version of Fifty Shades of Grey. As they say, sex sells.

7. Also, it was rumored that Abercrombie doesn’t make their clothing in sizes larger than “anorexic” because they don’t want anyone larger than Twiggy wearing their brand. It would ruin their image. The CEO vehemently denied the allegation, but I know from firsthand experience that Abercrombie’s size “extra-large” looks like it shrunk in the dryer.

Let me tell you the real reason Abercrombie’s sales have dropped so drastically . . . like many other parents, I was the one with the credit card in my pocket and was ready to spend money. But it was so bad that I had to leave the store (see Numbers 1 through 7 above) and shopped elsewhere.

They marketed to the kids, but Misters Abercrombie & Fitch forgot who might be paying for their merchandise . . . the parents. The girls may have resented it at the time, but I bet if you were to ask them today, they would completely agree with me.

I’m not a prude, but I applaud Abercrombie’s decision to stop gratuitously targeting young men and women with racy ads and catalogs, eye-candy salesclerks, and beefcake models.

According to a retail research firm, “Abercrombie & Fitch has to find its niche. You are not going to see totally wholesome, but I think the era has passed it by. They need to do something different.”

Thanks goodness. To bastardize a line from my favorite movie, Young Frankenstein, “Those abs in the ads are Abby Normal.” 

My uncle did some modeling in the 40s. Now THAT is a what a male model should look like!

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Hubba Hubba

 

As an encore, my next rant might be about Victoria’s Secret and what they are doing to women’s idea of what their bodies should look like.

It’s a Dog’s Life

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The Sacramento Kennel Club puts on a two-day dog show every spring. I’ve gone to it two or three times and I have a big goofy grin on my face the whole time I am surrounded by all that doggone fun.

How could I not be grinning after seeing a face like this one? It was puppy-love at first sight.

What a face!

What a face!

The American Kennel Club, like many clubs are wont to do, has rules, regulations, bylaws, codes of conduct, policies, standards, statutes, guidelines, procedures, requirements, parameters, and the like. Every aspect of being dog-crazy, er, I mean dog showing, has a rule to go along with it. With all that writing and reading o’rules, one wonders when they have time to breed, train, handle, and show dogs.

There are also many unwritten rules that dog show participants must adhere to.

I set before you what you need to know if you want to enter the heady world of dog showing without making rookie mistakes and getting laughed out of the show ring.

Exhibit 1:

Your dog must be insanely adorable.

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Or slightly bizarre.

Strange

Exhibit 2:

You must tote around copious amounts of dog paraphernalia. Consider hiring a Sherpa.

Doggie stuffExhibit 3:

Dog grooming combs must be stored in your hair.
Grooming comb

Exhibit 4:

Frequently use a drool rag to wipe off slobber. Dog drool and concrete floors are a deadly combination.

Drool 2

Or feel free to humiliate your dog by making him wear a silly bib.

Drool Exhibit 5:

Dog tattoos are a plus. Judges dig ’em.

Dog Tattoos

 Exhibit 6:

Mom jeans and sensible shoes are a must.

Mom jeans

 Exhibit 7

Bring your checkbook so you can:

Shop at the dog leash emporium.

Dog leash emporium

Hire an animal communicator. I kid you not.

Dog Whisperer

Book a massage appointment for your dog to relieve his stress so he performs in the ring to the best of his ability.
Massage Therapy

Exhibit 8

Attend beauty school so you know how to properly style your dog’s hair . . . um, fur.

And finally, this is what the dogs must do:

Wait around . . .

Waiting

And wait . . .

Waiting . . .

And wait some more . . .

Waiting


Honestly, if you have a chance to go to a dog show, I highly recommend it. It is DOG-some.

My husband is a lucky man. I can hear you saying, “Why, yes he is! He is married to you, isn’t he?” That isn’t the only reason he is lucky. I came close to coming home with about two dozen dogs.

But this guy, my Sir William Wallace, would be jealous if I did that.

"Don't even think of bringing home a dog!"

“Don’t even think of bringing home a dog, you big cheater!”

The End is Near

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No, I am not a survivalist predicting the end of the world as we know it, although I do happen to look fetching in mossy oak camo and make a delicious tree bark stew.

The end I am talking about is the end of the long process of writing and editing, editing, editing, editing (did I mention editing?) my manuscript for my soon to be published novel, In Search of Beef Stroganoff.

I can hear a collective sigh of relief from all you bloggers out there about not having to listen to me moan and complain and rant about how the editing process is endless. I could always find sentences in my manuscript I wanted to tinker with, things that needed to be added, sections to toss on the garbage heap, or scattered typos left in the wake of my editing.

My dear friend and fellow blogger, also happens to be a librarian with a fancy schmancy Master’s Degree in Library Science. She read a draft of In Search of Beef Stroganoff over the summer and gave me fantastic feedback, asked hard questions, and told me she HATED the ending. I took her comments to heart et voila (how French of me), the manuscript was in a state where I was happy with it and could quit gnawing on it like a pit bull. I could finally say . . .

Enough is enough.

It is finished.

Quit picking at it.

There is no earthly reason to change the word “happy” to the equally boring word “glad.”

I honestly didn’t think that day would ever come.

I sent the manuscript off to a talented and knowledgeable editor, who many of you know as the fabulous Madame Weebles of blogging fame. She is an editor with a keen eye, nose for accuracy, delicate touch, hears when dialog is stilted, and chewed up and spit out sentences that didn’t ring true. She used all five senses while editing my manuscript and I think she used her sixth sense as well. She gave the novel the polish it needed. The story is the same, but she helped me smooth out more than a few bumps.

My gifted and artistic (and may I be so bold as to add, beautiful) daughter is a graphic designer extraordinaire. She created a stunning cover for the book, but she won’t let me reveal it . . . yet. Because she is like her mother, she is never happy until something is perfect. She wants to play around with the design some more, but in my mind, it is already perfect. It captures the essence of the story.

Because, as I said, I leave typos in my wake when I edit, the manuscript is now in the capable hands of my best pal. She can spot a typo at a hundred yards. And by the way, she has found a few. Once she is finished, it is publication time.

Woooooooohooooooo! I will soon be doing a happy dance and I hope you all join in!

After doing much handwringing, gnashing of teeth, and hours of research, I decided to self-publish using Lulu Publishing Services. Have any of you used them? If so, how did it go? From everything I’ve learned about Lulu, they are author-friendly, you can do eBook and print book versions, and they don’t demand your first-born child as payment.

I considered trying to get an agent but it seemed like an impossible dream. The numbers are against anyone who would like to be traditionally published, except if your name happens to be Stephen King. There are so many talented writers out there. My goal is to hold a copy of my book in my hands, not to be rejected by an agent.

Stay tuned. I’ll be around the blogosphere more now and will try to not bore you with the details of getting my book in print. But I can’t make any promises.

So . . . enough about me. How have you all been?

 

Spending the Night with Paul McCartney

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Anyone who has followed this blog for twelve months seconds knows I am a huge Beatles fan. I’ve been a fan since I was, as my mom would say, knee-high to a grasshopper.

My ever-so-thoughtful husband surprised me with two tickets to see Sunday night’s Paul McCartney concert with our daughter Jill. The way that sentence reads, it sounds like our daughter was in concert with Sir Paul. What I mean to say is I went to the concert with our daughter. Damn semantics.

Said thoughtful husband also booked a room for us at the Omni Hotel next door to the sold-out concert venue, Petco Park in San Diego. Our 19th floor room looked smack-dab into the stadium. Had he known that, my husband might have scalped our concert tickets and said, “How ’bout you watch the concert from your room? Here is a pair of binoculars.”

Who needs tickets to the concert with a view like this?

Who needs tickets to the concert with a view like this?

While enjoying a pre-concert beverage, Jill and I noticed a crowd gathered behind barricades lining the driveway leading to the backstage area. Whaddya know? A few minutes later the crowd erupted in cheers as a motorcade of black Escalades rounded the corner. Paul and his mates (how British of me) had arrived at the stadium for the sound check. My daughter and I screamed (yes, screamed) when Paul rolled down the passenger window and popped his arm out to wave to his fans. I would know that arm anywhere.

Adoring fans or creepy stalkers? Your call.

Adoring fans? Creepy Paul stalkers? Your call.

Jill and I proceeded to a rooftop bar near the stadium for additional pre-concert beverages (hmmm, I sense a theme here) where we could listen to the hour-long sound check. Unlike many other rock stars, Paul does his own.

The stadium was packed, and I mean packed, with 42,000 Beatles lovers. The youngest fan I saw was five-years-old or so, and the oldest fan was using a cane. Talk about a broad fan-base.

Paul packs the house.

Do you suppose Paul still has any fans?

Sir Paul looks and sounds amazing. He and his talented band played (and I mean really rocked) for three solid hours. I can’t do anything that uses that much energy for three minutes, let alone three hours. Paulie-boy won’t be offended here if I remind you that he is 72-years-old. You would never know it. He is trim and fit, stylish as ever, winsome smile and wit are ever-present, and his voice is true and strong.

I’ll add here that other rock stars of Paul’s generation look like they have been chewed up and spit out by their partying lifestyles. Think Mick Jagger, Tom Petty, or Justin Bieber. Our Sir Paul still has élan. What other 72-year-old man can look alluring while sporting suspenders? My daughter said, “It is a little disturbing that I have a crush on a guy that old.”

The concert was an excellent mix of Beatles and Wings material, as well as a few songs from his new album. But the sweetest part of the evening was then he sang, “Yesterday” directly to my daughter and me. I’m not sure how he found us in the crowd, what with his aging eyesight and all.

 

At close to midnight, we exited the stadium for the one-minute walk to our hotel. Even at that late hour, we were too amped by the energy of the concert and there was no way, Jose, we could just go to bed. We joined dozens of our fellow concertgoers in the hotel bar for post-concert beverages. The energy in the bar was just as electric as it was in the stadium.

I said earlier that the sweetest part of the evening was when Paul sang “Yesterday.” That statement is utterly incorrect. The sweetest part was spending the evening with our daughter Jill and that my husband made it happen. Thanks, honey.

On my flight home yesterday, a woman about my age sat next to me. Without a “Good morning,” “Is this seat taken?,” “Move your damn purse,” or whatever, she blurted out . . . “I was at the Paul McCartney concert last night.” Guess what we talked about the entire flight home . . .

Life’s Little Mysteries

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There are so many mysteries in life. I’m a deep drinker thinker, but I just can’t wrap my brain about some things. You guys are smart. A little help here?

When the driver gets off the bus, who closes the door?

Why do we turn down the car radio when we are looking for an address?

Where is all the information on the Internet stored?

What do blog spammers possibly hope to accomplish?

Does anyone own a Ginsu knife?

Who was the first person that looked at an oyster and thought, “Yum-o. That looks delicious. I think I’ll eat it. Better yet, I’ll add a dash of Tabasco and eat it raw.”

How do weeds grow in the cracks of the sidewalks yet some flowers in my garden are struggling?

Excuse me while I gag, but who in their right mind thinks having gauge earrings is a good look?

The list goes on and on, but my last one for you is a really poser . . . a stumper . . . a noggin’ scratcher. Albert Einstein failed the entrance exam for Mensa because he couldn’t answer the question.

Drum roll please.

How can I have the wherewithal to write 76,000 +/- words in my manuscript but I can’t compose a query letter?

English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d...

That is not Herr Einstein. It is me after trying to write a query letter. Photo credit: Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong vs Weak Words ~ Part 43 ~ When

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Strong vs Weak

Thought you saw the last of the damn Strong vs. Weak Word posts, right?

Me too.

I didn’t think I had another one in me. But lucky, lucky you . . . be prepared to be edified or anesthetized. Your choice.

I was 20-stinking-pages from the end of my FINAL read-through of my manuscript before sending it to a blogging friend for copy/line-editing. Then WHAM-O, I noticed something was WRONG-O. Seriously WRONG-O.

When the main character did such-and-such, then the next thing happened.

A lot.

146 of the sentences in my manuscript started with the word “when.” Good grief. The better part of yesterday was spent reworking those blasted sentences and now, I am the proud owner of a mere 21 “when” sentences.

Let me give you some examples of what I mean, and how “when” can be exorcised and replaced with something more interesting.

When Robin finished her blog post, her followers took to the streets and cheered.

Yeah, right. Sure they did.

Robin finished her blog post and her followers promptly sent her hate mail.

~~~~~

When Robin had a power-lunch, she always downed three martinis.

Gin or vodka?

A martini was Robin’s beverage of choice in order to get hammered over a business deal.

~~~~~

When Robin returned home, she poured herself another drink.

What a souse!

Returning home to a cold and empty house, Robin warmed her spirits with another martini.

~~~~~

Enough of that.

The other thing I discovered was I used “when” to avoid starting yet another sentence with “I.” “When” became this writer’s crutch instead of working to find a more interesting way to say what I wanted to say.

When I stared into the abyss of my computer screen, I wanted to cry.

Oh God. I know the feeling.

Staring into the abyss of my computer screen, tears of frustration threatened to short-circuit my keyboard.

~~~~~

When I stormed out the door, the agent chased after me to offer a book deal.

What is the name of your agent?

The agent shredded my offer for a book deal because I stormed out of his office.

~~~~~

Maybe this ain’t no kinda problem for you, but “when” was sure a whopper of a problem for me.

As I have said before in these posts, the difference is subtle, but there is a difference. Try searching your manuscript for sentences beginning with “when” and please report back what you find. I’m curious.

As a bonus for you, trying looking for sentences starting with “after” and “before.” As in:

After/before the main character did this, that happened.

96 of those babies in my manuscript.

Happy writing!

What Not To Wear

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My husband is an avid cyclist. Avid with a capital “A.” Avid as in his idea of a good time is riding his bike 72 miles with 4.2 million feet of elevation climb. Avid as in owning a fleet of bicycles with a combined value of the national debt. Avid as in . . . well, you get the idea.

What about that looks fun?

What about that looks fun?

I, on the other hand, am an avid avoider of all things involving two wheels and my sweat in order to operate it. Until recently, that is. I finally caved under my husband’s bicyclist enthusiasm and let him buy me a bike. Why? Because the bike was darn cute. Heck, it has a basket and a bell! Here is said bike:

No, that is not a picture of the Wicked Witch of the West.

No, stop it. That is not a picture of the Wicked Witch of the West.

But something was missing in my quest to feel passion for the sport. I couldn’t put my finger on that certain je ne sais quoi until today. I don’t have the right outfit! Now if I could just get my hands on one of these uniforms . . .

Who in the world thought that was a good idea?

Colombian Cycling Team. Who in the world thought that was a good idea? Was the designer on Columbian drugs?

IRS Phone Scam ~ Don’t Fall For It!

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I don’t get some people.

Imagine devoting your life’s work and precious time on this earth to scamming people out of their money. How do those people sleep at night? What does their mother think about their career choice?

Like I said, I don’t get people. Don’t even get me started on the Ray Rice (aka wife-beater and all-around thug) elevator incident.

This rant is about a threatening phone message I picked up today, allegedly from our friends at the IRS.

I had heard about this scam on the news, but even if I hadn’t, the message reeked with no-good-ed-ness. An automaton voice said,

“Return this call the very second you receive this message. I need you, or your retained attorney of record, to return the call. The issue at hand is extremely time-sensitive. I am Officer Julie Smith from the Internal Revenue Service and the hotline to my division is 415-251-6983. Don’t disregard this message and do return the call before we take any action against you. Good-bye and take care.”

First of all, since when did IRS agents start saying “take care” when they threaten action against a taxpayer?

Secondly, I know IRS agents are stiff, but they have become androids too? (My apologies to any non-stiff IRS agents out there.)

Smelling a rat, I Googled the phone number, and of course, it popped up as a scam on several message boards. One person who commented on the board said he called the number back 25 times in one day just to hassle the scammer! I’d like to meet that guy and shake his hand. You gotta love his pluck.

What troubles me most about this scam is there are many people who might fall for it, for example, my 91-year-old dad. A call like that would scare the bejesus out of him and I could see him immediately calling the number back and forking over money. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, an estimated $5 million has been lost to these scams. Tragic.

Picture this scene:

A scammer comes home from a hard day at the office and their June Cleaver-ish wife asks, “How was your day, dear?”

“Excellent! I bilked another sap out of his life savings.”

This information is hot off the IRS website:

Characteristics of this scam include:

Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.

Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.

Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.

Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.

Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.

After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.

If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

I will add here, the IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers by phone ~ they always send written correspondence first.

This was my public service announcement of the day. Oh and yes, I did file a report to the FTC.

 

 

 

 

Paper or Plastic?

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You know I don’t like to get up on my high horse. Much. But I am troubled by something so vast, the problem is not likely to go away in our lifetime, or for that matter, during our great-great-great-great grandchildren’s lifetime.

Stealing a couple of lines from The Graduate, “I just have one word for you. Are you listening? One word. Plastics.”

Have you heard about this?

There is a floating mass of plastic in the Pacific Ocean that is roughly the twice the size of Texas. TEXAS!

For that matter, there are boatloads (no pun intended) of plastic bags, bottle, spoons and whatnots in all of our oceans. And the junk ain’t going anywhere, anytime soon. The plastic just keeps breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces until it is microscopic plastic dust. Marine life unwittingly ingest the stuff.

When we were in Belize in March, we witnessed the problem firsthand. Every day at dawn, the resort had a crew of Belizeans rake up the truckload of plastic that had washed up on shore overnight. Talk about job security for those guys.

We snorkeled every day in pristine waters. No plastic trash to be seen. However, on one of our trips, something was up with the tide or the vortex of waters and we were right in the thick of swimming through plastic city. It was disconcerting to see a CVS bag float by. Sickening is a better word.

What a waste.

According to renowned marine biologist and my new hero, Dr. Sylvia Earle, a whale washed ashore the California coast and the poor guy had 400 pounds of plastic in its stomach. No one wondered why it died.

I’m not saying plastic is a bad thing. What we are doing with it is a bad thing. Man is not the only culprit. Mother Nature plays a part when she unleashes tsunamis what sweep tons of debris, including plastic, into the ocean.

Those clever scientists who worked tirelessly on the development of the seedless watermelon ought to now focus their energies on how we are going to fix the problem of plastic in the ocean.

I won’t load you up with statistics and sad facts here. All you need to do it consult Mr. Google and search for “plastic in the ocean.” Reading up on the issue will keep you busy and off the streets for days. I do, however, urge you to watch this brief video on Plastic Ocean’s website.

I hope our next generation of children will not understand the question, “Paper or plastic?”

Okay. I’m off my soapbox.

Belize panorama

Don’t let this beautiful Belizean scene fool you. Plastic lurks out there.

Look what the cat dragged in . . . Robin is back!

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Hello, dear blogging friends! I have had a full plate with no time to blog or read blogs for some time now. I won’t make excuses, whine, or pretend that I am busier than the rest of you. Goodness knows, we are all busy.

With all good intentions, I stepped back from my blog to focus on finishing my novel. Here is what I did about that thing called my manuscript. Squat. Zilch. Nada. Zippo.

But here are a few of the things I did manage to accomplish:

  1. Fixed the crisis in the Mideast. I got the nicest thank you note from the president.
  2. Solved the world hunger problem by whipping up several batches of my famous beef stroganoff. That stuff sticks to your ribs.
  3. Figured out why the Kardashians are popular. Oh, wait. That question will never be answered.

With all those heady issues resolved, I am happy to report that I am writing/editing again.

My novel was all but finished so why the heck wasn’t I taking it to the finish line? Why work so hard on telling the story and then leave it moldering, languishing, and mildewing in a file on my laptop? (Do computer files mildew?)

So, I dusted off my manuscript and with a fresh eye and renewed spirit, set about finishing what I started so long ago. I did a read-through and was thrilled to find out I didn’t hate it and want to throw the mildewed bather in the trash.

With the help of a dear friend, who has a keen eye for holes in the story and incongruity, I polished the sentences, added depth where the story was thin, and deleted stuff that just didn’t make literary magic. I am forever in her debt

Now the burning question is how to get the damn thing published. Agent? Self-publish? Assisted self-publishing? Running off mimeo copies of it and passing it out on the street corner? The whole process of getting published makes the writing part look easy.

Plagiarizing my own blog, I wrote this a long time ago:

“The discussions on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing and the changing industry are robust with good information. Just when I think “Ah ha! I have a game plan,” I read something else counseling that Game Plan B is better. Then I read another article with the advice that the sure-fire way to go is Game Plan C. And on and on it goes. Without sounding like I am whining (well maybe a little), I’d like to be adopted by someone who says, “Here honey, I’ll handle it for you.” Since being adopted is unlikely at my age, I’ll forge ahead on my own for now.”

Like in Mel Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein, I wish someone would hand me this:

how-i-did-itAnyhoo, for those of you who have navigated the rocky road of publication, any advise for moi? If no advise, please stop by this blog for a cup of tea and a chat. I do miss you all.