Friday, August 30, 2019

Dog Days

Thought for the day: Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. [Groucho Marx]

[image courtesy of seniorark]
A flashlight could chase some of that dark away...

Hi-ya. My brain is giving me the silent treatment today, so I'm going to go with an easy breezy post. Nothing too strenuous or thought-provoking. After all, this is Labor Day weekend... which means NO LABOR, people!

Besides, who wants to work... or think... when it's so darned hot.

The dog days, they call 'em. That's a rather nice name for that long hot sultry period parts of the Northern hemisphere swelter through from early June to early September. Theoretically, that means they should be drawing to an end soon, but this is Georgia. Hot weather likes to linger.

So in honor of dog days, I'm going to share some of my favorite dog pics and cartoons. (Sorry, Joanne! I'll have something extra special just for YOU at the end...)

Life is never boring when you have pets.

Sniffing, licking and sleeping are exhausting.

Even dogs have grumpy days.

Poor baby's having a hard time recognizing his pal's scent...

Talk about man's best friend!

Well, technically, maybe he's right...?

Geez, and we always tried to blame it on the dog... I reckon turn-about's fair play.

Sometimes, it's just too darned HOT to trot around for no good reason.


Even more mellooooow.

Sorry, Rover. You're gonna have to settle for a hug.

Doggone it, that's enough pics! I'm getting a little carried away here. (I hope some of them gave you a little lift.)

And now... (Insert drum roll, please) JUST for the lovely Joanne, who is not a critter-lover.


This kinda beast more to your liking, kiddo? They should have your pool cleaned in no time...

You know, I really love our cats, but after going through so many of my dog pictures, I'm thinking it'd be kinda nice to have a dog again. There's something magical about the bonds we can form with dogs, so maybe we should get a magical dog... something like a chocolate labracadabradour...

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Today, I will live in the moment. Unless it's unpleasant, in which case, I'll eat a cupcake.

Friday, August 23, 2019

On Being Alone

Thought for the day:  Language has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone. [Paul Tillich]

[image courtesy of unsplash]

There's a huge difference between reveling in the glorious solitude of an early morning walk on the beach, where we thoroughly enjoy our own company and feel at one with the universe...

[image courtesy of unsplash]

and the devastating soul-sucking feeling of loneliness. The sense that one has been deserted. Has no one. Is totally alone and unwanted in this world.

Solitude is not the same as loneliness. Solitude is a solitary boat floating in a sea of possible companions. [Robert Fulghum]

By contrast, I suppose the lonely don't believe there are any possible companions for them. Nothing but a sea of emptiness as far as they can see.

[courtesy of unsplash]
My guess is you've all seen it: crowds of people with downcast eyes, fiddling with their cellphones while ignoring the flesh-and-blood people who are surrounding them. This isn't just a phenomenon that occurs among strangers, either. It happens within families.

From the boardroom to the bedroom, we're connected 24/7, yet loneliness is at an all-time high. More people are reaching for mobile devices than for the hand of someone in need. Where did our humanity go? [Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey]

But we can't blame this disconnect on modern technology. Sure, the proliferation of cellphones has made the situation more blatantly noticeable, but the truth is, the disconnect pre-dates the advent of the cellphone.

[image courtesy of unsplash]
Why is it that people are more likely to react to a lonely dog with empathy than they are to a person?

[image courtesy of unsplash]

Why does a pitiful-looking kitten pluck on our heartstrings, while the sight of a saddened human being is more likely to make us look the other way? (If we even notice that person in the first place.)

It's as though we're all insulated in our own little worlds (i.e. our vehicles) passing thousands of other people, who are also insulated in their own little worlds. Separated. Disconnected.

[image courtesy of unsplash]
 How many of you would feel compelled to speak to a lonely old woman sitting by herself? To a laughing child? To a person of a different race, sex, or generation than you?

I confess. To me, strangers are just friends I haven't made yet. You could say I'm an equal-opportunity annoyer. That's how I acted as a kid, and I still haven't outgrown it. (Just between you and me, I hope I never do.) Smarticus is the same way. Some would call us extroverts, I suppose. Personally, I think we just have big yaps. No one is safe from our friendly yammering, and no matter how standoffish or surprised people may be initially, they've always come around and engaged in conversations with us in the end.

Know why? Because I think people are lonely. We NEED to feel connected to other people, and that sense of belonging is achingly absent in the lives of far too many people.

Loneliness can be a serious health condition, too, especially for the elderly. According to an AARP study, prolonged social isolation is as risky to a person's well-being as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.

Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty. [Mother Teresa]

                                   And loneliness all too often leads to depression.

So why don't we reach out to each other more?  Are we introverts, or are we simply afraid of being rejected? Afraid of what that other person might think or how he might react? What if there were a safe place to interact with strangers, a place where you'd know ahead of time that the other person does, indeed, want to talk to somebody, and would welcome the opportunity to meet you?

Thanks to English policeman Detective Sargent Ashley Jones, these places do exist. He became aware of how devastating loneliness can be for seniors when an elderly widow who'd been bilked of more than thirty thousand dollars by a con man told him she didn't mind, because without the con man's daily phone calls, in which he pretended to be her friend, she wouldn't have spoken to another human being for weeks on end. She was lonely and that con man temporarily eased her profound sense of loneliness.

So the good officer did something about it. In June, he got permission to give special status to a couple benches in two local parks.

How are they special? They're called chat benches... and they have made a difference. So much so, ten more benches were added shortly after the first two, often in places where the elderly tend to congregate. Now, there are forty of these benches spread throughout the UK, and other countries are starting to  notice, like Australia and the U.S.

Isn't that fantastic???

                             Here's a short video to tell you a bit more about the benches:

So what do you think? Think this is going to be an idea that'll sweep the world and make a real difference in lives far and wide? I sure hope so. In a world of manufactured problems based on our perceived differences, how wonderful it would be if we all could learn to sit down and chat a spell with a stranger. Remember, (s)he's just a friend you haven't met yet... and even without a bench, each of us has the power to change that.

We can all fight against loneliness by engaging in random acts of kindness. [Gail Honeyman]

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. [Albert Schweitzer]

Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud. [Maya Angelou]

If you light a lamp for someone, it will also brighten your path. [Buddhist saying]

If you meet someone without a smile, give him one of yours.

Give a stranger a smile. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.

Making a person smile can change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world.

                                         Be the reason someone smiles today.

                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Real Ball-Buster

Thought for the day: I love to break balls. You got a problem with that?

What can I say? I've enjoyed knocking balls around since I was a kid.

To play billiards well was a sign of an ill-spent youth. [Herbert Spencer]

It's not like I hung around in pool halls, though. We had an el cheapo table in our basement. Not the best place to learn, but it was more than enough to teach me the basics and get me hooked on the game. And when my parents dragged me to the bars with them, the owners let me play on the tables there, too. (Which often weren't much better than our home table.)

[Hmm, this shot looked a helluva lot better... and funnier... in my head than it does in reality. I was thinking along the lines of that iconic shot from The Graduate, where Dustin Hoffman is framed by Mrs. Robinson's legs... Oh well.] By the time I went away to college, I was a pretty good shot. Not great, but pretty darned good. When a couple of cocky jocks from our high school invited my roommate and me to the student union to show us how to shoot pool... what can I say? I couldn't resist.

This is a recent shot, but it shows exactly how I felt after beating those guys. I felt H-O-T! Like my pool cue was on FIRE.

Needless to say, those guys never asked us out again. I guess they'd never lost to girls before.

Smarticus says I once told him I'd never marry someone who couldn't beat me at pool, so he's always worked extra hard to whip my butt on the table. To tell the truth, I don't remember saying that, but in a way, I guess it makes sense. We all want to be challenged, right? Like, it isn't much fun playing Scrabble with someone who only makes three-letter words or bowling with someone who only rolls gutter balls. It's the same with pool. And although Smarticus and I are pretty evenly matched, my guy can still beat me. (On a regular basis!)

So the two of us still play regularly... and I was still feeling pretty good about myself. Like I still shot pretty darned good... for a girl. 

Then I saw THIS:

                                                                     And I mean...



I am NOT all that. 
Not even CLOSE.

But ya know what? That is perfectly okay, because I know exactly what I am. I still enjoy playing, and I love busting them balls. Winning gives me great pleasure, but as long as I shoot well, I'm okay with losing. In fact.... I am the

And I'm perfectly... okay... with that.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

When Characters Revolt

Thought for the day: You can't blame a writer for what the characters say. [Truman Capote]

As you can probably tell by that nifty badge on the left, it's that time again.Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and
 thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Okay, so it'd be terrific if I could say I've churned out twenty thousand or so fantabulous heart-wrenching words on my WIP since last we met, but that'd be a big fat lie. I haven't. On the plus side, I'm still hard at work editing an excellent book for another writer, so at least my brain hasn't completely turned to mush. Yet.

Sure, editing does put some cash in the ol' account, but it really DOES make me happy, too. It's a thrill to help other writers improve their work. Is it also a sneaky way to procrastinate about finishing my own work? Maybe, but I don't care. (So THERE!)

The author whose work I'm currently abetting has a ton of sometimes chilling imagination, so her books are always entertaining. Being able to help make her diamond shine as brightly as possible is very satisfying... for both of us.

Edit... or regret it! That would be my advise for any writer. Shine your baby up as much as possible before sending it out into the world.

[NO... I'm not soliciting for more clients. I WILL return to my own book as soon as possible.]

Okay, enough of that. Let's check out this month's question:

Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission response to a submission you'd forgotten or an ending you never saw coming?

Oh heck, yeah.

Sometimes, I think writers are only kidding themselves when they think they're completely in charge of the stories they're creating. Changes from what we think is going to happen to what actually ends up happening are inevitable.

For me, anyway.

The changes were more subtle in my first book Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade. The bones remained pretty much the same, but I certainly never intended for Matt, a conservative young  Republican, to be gay. And I never meant for a lifelong friendship between a white lab tech and a black doctor to turn into something more, either. Those things just... happened. And they felt right.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be. [Douglas Adams]
                                                                                   WHAT JUST HAPPENED???
 [image courtesy of unsplash]
The changes that evolved in Explosive Beginnings were more... shall we say...explosive? At one point, I laughingly lamented that my ungrateful characters had staged an insurrection and were running away with the plot. I  mean, the ingrates wouldn't even have existed without me, so how dare they...??? But (sigh) I think they were right to insist on their plot twists and surprise ending. (Maybe one of them deserves the byline...)

Okay, that's about it for now. Time to get back to the editing... but one more thing. I think I may know why I've been dragging my feet a little bit with my current WIP.

I believe I may need to lose a couple pounds and tone up my gluteus maximus a bit before going through that again...

                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.