Cat woes

It’s like having a toddler all over again.

One of my cats, Frenchy, has another ear infection. Both ears, actually. She is prone to get them and this time the vet told me to keep her on flea and tick preventative. It also works on ear mites, which are the  cause of her woes.

If they had told me that the last time I brought her in … never mind. I’m not on a rant. But here we go again with ear drops twice a day.

Easy for the vet to say. Frenchy is also a mind reader. She knows the minute I pick that medicine bottle up and goes into hiding. I’ve often compared her to a cockroach because she can slip into the tiniest crack. (Not a fair comparison because she is otherwise very sweet.)

I have cornered her behind the toilet, under the recliner, and now she is under the sofa and I can’t reach her at all because she got up in the springs.

The vet suggested I confine her to the bathroom for the next two weeks and I may have to do that. If I can catch her at all.

Frenchy’s big ears are the source of her woes. The shelter named her after a character in “Grease” and I didn’t change it when I brought her home.

It’s shame we can’t explain to our pets why we are taking them to the doctor and why we give them medicine. They don’t understand  “This will make you better.” They only know they don’t feel well and you are adding to their misery.

(We humans are pretty much the same way. We know we should diet and exercise more, but we run and hide. We avoid a physical exam because we’re afraid we might hear something we don’t want to hear and/or deal with.)

I read recently that the University of Georgia has a program that fosters stray cats with senior citizens who live alone. The outcome is very positive for both the elderly people and the animals. Cats don’t ask for much … food, a warm place to sleep, some petting once in awhile — on their schedule. I find my three adopted cats are a lot of company.

And, a source of exercise if you count chasing them around the house to give them their medicine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And to all, a good night

Hopefully, by now the packages have been wrapped and placed under the tree, all the cookies are decorated, and the stockings are stuffed. The cards have been addressed and  mailed, and the last ornament hung on the tree.

Or maybe not. I remember my Dad never shopped until Christmas Eve. Why he procrastinated, I don’t know. It usually meant the color, size, or style of whatever Mom wanted was unavailable.  We were introduced early the the concept of day-after-Christmas  returns.

Mom would be exhausted, having completed (under the wire) her weeks-long marathon of baking. No kind of cookie or candy escaped her measuring cups and spoons.  The worst part was coming home from school and smelling the delicious smells, only to be told we had to wait until Christmas to taste the goodies.

Whether you put it off until the last possible minute, like Dad, or spent weeks in preparation, like Mom, it’s too late now to do anything more.

Christmas comes, ready or not. And when it does, we realize anew that it isn’t the cookies or presents or the tree that we celebrate.

We go outside and gaze at a star above us, maybe through falling snow, or maybe through a palm branch waving in a sultry breeze.  It isn’t Santa we’re watching for, but the miracle of a blessed birth, the arrival of a holy child, the greatest gift of all.

 

Image result for christmas star images

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

 

And then…

I attended our local community theater’s presentation of “To Kill  Mockingbird” this week. Although I had read the book and seen the movie, the story still gripped me. The acting was dynamic, the sets were clever, and all in all it was a great evening. There is just something about a live performance that brings a story to life.

I got to thinking about what makes a great story. We are told over and over about “the hook.” Gotta get the read (or agent, or publisher) with the first sentence … the first paragraph … the first page.

But what happens after that?

I think it is the same whether it is print, film, or stage–we want our audience to wonder what happens next.

Remember sitting around the campfire while someone told a ghost story? The shivers of anticipation mounted with each new sentence: “And then …” until the climax when we all screamed in relief.

It’s great to get the reader hooked, but can we keep the fish–er, reader–on the line?

When we read a great book we say, “I couldn’t put it down.”

The author knew how to keep the suspense churning. Each page, each chapter, tempted us into “just one more” until parents, partner, or just plain realization that tomorrow is a work day made us put the book down.

My mother had a crafty way to getting us to read. She’d start a story, then put slap the book closed and say, “If you want to see what happens next, you need to read it yourself.”

And we did.

You can talk about the craft of writing all you want, but the rules are simple. One, get the reader interested in the characters and their problems (plot) and two,  keep the action going by constantly tempting them with “what’s next?”

I guarantee you’ll have a winner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To this point, I’ve considered historical fiction as beginning with Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear and ending with All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. I read all of Auel’s books, but confess I never read the World War I classic.

However, I notice a change creeping up on me like gray hair and arthritic knees. The big thing now is World War II novels, such as All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and Kristin Hanna’s The Nightingale. If you haven’t read these two novels, stop right now and get them from your library, download them on your Kindle, or do whatever you have to do. I’ll wait.

These are both marvelous books that take you right into the war and its effects on those who lived through it … or didn’t. But as I read them, I wondered, “How is it that these are labeled historical fiction?”

Isn’t history events that happened before you were born?

I haven’t been coy about my age, but evidently I am older than I thought. You see, I remember World War II. Not as a historian would view it, but through a child’s eyes. I knew there was a war going on, I just didn’t exactly know what a war was.

Thank God for that.

To me, war meant Victory gardens, and a scarcity of certain commodities like sugar. I knew sugar was scarce because my mother complained bitterly when she was ready to make jam from the berries she grew along the side of our vegetable garden and couldn’t buy any, even with her ration book.

War meant saving bacon grease in a tin can, and rolling string into balls. It meant carefully peeling the tin foil from its paper backing after unwrapping a stick of chewing gum and saving it.

War meant seeing beautiful wrought iron fences disappear from the lawns of stately homes and drawing the shades down at night so not one glimmer of light could escape.

These were minor and forgettable things compared to what others went through. But we didn’t know about the others. Not then. We didn’t know how blessedly safe we were.

But war  touched many other children: children shot, starved, gassed. The novels I mentioned brought this home to me. We know war is evil, but until a skilled writer brings our emotions to the fore, we can’t really understand what it is like. Hanna and Doerr put us in the picture, and after reading their novels, we can’t say we don’t understand any longer.

And still it goes on. And on. Korea, Vietnam, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria…

I would love some day to know that all wars belong in the historical category. I know I won’t live to see it, but I hope my great-grandchildren will.

And they will read the stories and thank God such madness has ended.

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Ashantay Peters

ashantayI met Ashantay about five years ago in Charlotte. Her enthusiasm is one of the first things you notice, next is her sincerity and finally her sense of humor. Her books reflect her twisted sense of life’s random calamity and often make me laugh out loud. When I met Ashantay, she was yet unpublished, so it’s been a joy to watch her success grow with each year with each new book!

First, introduce yourself:  Hi! Im Ashantay Peters and I live in Western North Carolina, just south of Asheville. I’m retired and spend as much time as possible outside. That is, until the mosquitoes send me slapping and cursing back into the house. Born in the Midwest,  I’ve lived in multiple areas of the country, including a year traveling in an RV.

Here’s a mimosa – now let’s sit and chat!  More

Too darn hot

What my manuscript looks like

Cole Porter wrote a song years ago called “Too Darn Hot.” Maybe some of you remember the lyrics from “Kiss Me Kate.”

It’s about being too hot to coo and pitch the woo with my baby tonight, but I can’t help thinking it’s too darn hot to do anything. At least outdoor work, and that’s what I’m not doing right now. The painting is half done, the hedge needs trimming, and I’m staying inside where it’s cool

Because it’s too darn hot.

Which means, I’ve had time to sit at the computer and work on my novel. Yep, no excuses.

I’ve been putting off working and thankful for the excuses I’ve managed to come up with until now, because I need to end the darn thing and I’m trying to come up with a believable ending.  Someone once said you shouldn’t start a book without knowing how it will end and of course I know it ends with the two main characters working out their differences and getting together for that Happy Ever After.

What I want it to look like

It’s the part in between that takes work. I’ve set up some situations that the characters have to solve and that means their coming face to face with their deepest fears and conquering them. But how do I get them together again when walking away seems the most logical answer? To them, I might add, not to me.

Obviously, they have to realize walking away isn’t what they need.

I want to make the ending believable in light of what has happened in the first 200 pages. And to do that, I have to go back and make sure all the clues are there so that the reader (hopefully) will say, “Of course!”

And not depend on a deus ex machina to swoop down to make everything right. That might have worked for the Greeks  (the phrase is a Latin translation) but modern readers demand a more realistic solution.

I told a friend that people who have never written a book think it must be easy. It isn’t. Frankly I’d rather mow the yard or trim a hedge than sit down and try to make my characters behave. Writing isn’t a smooth journey from Once Upon a Time to The End. It’s constantly going back and forth, changing a word here, a paragraph there, so it all flows seamlessly to the conclusion.

If these characters do realize they can’t live without each other, it has to come from something more than, “Gosh, I’ve changed my mind.”

So…pondering and re-writing, and x-ing out and starting over. I come tantalizingly close to an answer and then realize it won’t work because…

And start over again.

That’s the trouble with being a pantser rather than a plotter. We pantsers like to say it’s more fun this way, but we also set ourselves up for just this kind of situation.

I’ve no doubt I’ll figure it out. After all, it’s too darn hot to do anything else.

(My apologies to those who live in cooler climes and wonder what I’m complaining about. It’s been in the 90s with no rain and I’ve had to trudge outside every night to water my flowers, and my ankles are mosquito bitten and itchy and I’m not in a good frame of mind.)

Maybe I’ll just kill off the two ninnies a la Romeo and Juliet.

Ah, no, that wouldn’t be believable either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Un petit moment…

Every once in a while, you come across a spoonful of wisdom that is so perfectly seasoned it needs nothing more. This from Brené Brown:

”I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”

~ Brené Brown

 

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