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What My Dog Has Taught Me About Writing

I’ve learned a lot from following my dog around. Whenever Buddy picks up an interesting scent… he walks faster and faster with his nose to the ground. Buddy will not stop until he tracks the scent to its source. It might be as small as one goldfish cracker, but he will not give up until he gets what he’s after. I must admit I admire his persistance.

I’ve discovered I need to apply a few of Buddy’s good qualities to my writing life. Although Buddy is directed by his sense of smell, I’m directed by what I see. My focus determines the direction I will go. I’m trying to direct my focus and be more productive by thinking like a dog.

Keep Looking Forward

Buddy never looks back, but continues to forge strait ahead when he’s on a mission. Sometimes I think fondly of the past and wish I could go back. That happens a lot when I look in the mirror and see how I’ve aged. Allowing my age to stop me from pursuing my dreams as a writer is a non-starter and robs me of my motivation. I need to remember and be thankful I’m retired. My age gives me more time to spend on my craft.

Look Beyond The Obstacles

Buddy never lets anything get in his way. When his back legs were paralyzed, he used his front paws to pull himself forward while dragging his back feet behind him. Wherever he wanted to go, he went. If I had focused on my inexperience as a writer, I would have never moved forward. My husband believed I could write a children’s book before I did. With his support, the fact that I’d never written a book, didn’t stop me.

Stay Alert for Opportunities

Buddy can be on the other side of the room but the sound of chopping vegetables or rustling cellophane signals his attention. He trots over to assume his position at my feet, keeping watch for any crumbs I drop on the floor.

Ideas for writing pop up on my radar just like those noises in the kitchen. Good ideas can fall to floor as quick as kernel of popcorn. I need to keep a notebook, or my phone handy to capture them. If I’m stuck without an idea for a blog, poem, or plot, I can always consult my notes.

Take Time To Rest

I’ll admit I’m somewhat of a workaholic. It’s important to realize whether I’m being productive, or spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. Busy work saps creativity. As I write this, Buddy is curled up sleeping. He doesn’t have a care in the world. He knows he can trust me to meet his needs. In the same way I need to remember everything doesn’t depend on me. Rest can be achieved in many ways, physically and spiritually. I rest physically when I stop hitting the keys. I rest spiritually by remembering that ultimately God is in control.

On that note, I’m thrilled to announce the release of my first children’s book, Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street  March 21, 2019! Click on the link to read more on the specifics of my book at Elk Lake Publishing.

A Poem for Non-Runners

I don’t run.

Nowhere to go.

Why should I hurry?

I want to know.

I don’t run.

Don’t want to sweat.

And if it rains,

I might get wet.

I don’t run.

Like many do.

Who says running is good for you?

Tendonitus

Causes pain

Shin splints, muscle pulls, ankle sprains.

I don’t run.

Since I’ve heard

Scientists say we should conserve.

Yes, my body,

Like a car

Loses its value when driven far.

Last summer Herb and I visited Pike’s Peak. Our guide took this photo of us pretending to run from Big Foot. I doubt if I could outrun Big Foot because I don’t run.

On the other hand, Herb is a runner. He’s competed in four marathons and done well for his age. He finished his last marathon at 65, and trains regularly.

I used to feel guilty about not running.

Dirty Harry said, “a man’s got to know his limitations.”

I’ve accepted mine. Running is not my thing. There’s joy in accepting yourself for who you are. I like my age. As a senior citizen, I think I’ve earned the right to say no to anything I don’t want to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in staying active, choosing instead to walk or bike. We all know exercise is important, and I’m glad for alternatives. In the meantime, I ‘ll keep looking over my shoulder to see if Big Foot is closing in on me.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you like poetry, check out some of my more serious poems by clicking on the menu bar and selecting my poetry page. More poems and the stories behind them can be found under Categories in the sidebar. Remember, to like, follow, and share!

One Campground That’s Gone to the Dogs

This week I learned something about people who camp. In addition to bringing their bikes, kayaks, and fishing equipment, they usually make room for Fido.

Since Herb and I normally include our beagle with us on our campouts, we fit right in at Myakka River State Park. This was our first excursion with Buddy for 2019, and we were ready to explore more of the “real Florida.” Located in the southwestern part of the state, Myakka is the largest state park and the most visited. The beautiful Myakka River flows through vast unspoiled wetlands, palm hammocks, and natural prairies. Visitors enjoy photographing the numerous birds and alligators along the scenic Park Drive.

A view of the Myakka River at Fisherman’s Loop

One morning during our stay we attended the camper’s coffee. Since the event was located at an outdoor pavilion, I thought it would be fun to include Buddy. We were prepared to bring him back to the campsite in case dogs weren’t allowed. Buddy was not only welcomed, he became the center of attention. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Leeann and Dan Brown, snowbirds temporarily volunteering this winter with the Friends of Myakka. They were excited to meet Buddy and wanted to know all about the red booties he wears on his back feet.

We were happy to share Buddy’s “back story”, and the upcoming release of Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street, my first children’s book. (Elk Lake Publishing) Later, Leeann and Dan visited us at our camper to chat and take photos of us with Buddy. They shared his story on their facebook page, RV Companions. All of a sudden I felt like I was on a book tour… after all, Buddy is the real star and Herb and I are only his managers.

Back to the Myakka campground. Our site was located in Old Prairie, which was one of three campgrounds located in the park. Almost everyone had a dog traveling with them, most had two. Of course when there are that many dogs in close proximity to one another, you have a fair amount of barking going on. I felt like a proud mama because Buddy seemed quiet and calmer than the rest. That was until we left him in the trailer for an hour while we visited the Canopy Walkway. Later, during a casual conversation, our neighbor informed us Buddy was not happy most of the time we were gone. His whining escalated to crying. Soon all the neighboring dogs started to bark. Note to self: administer the anti-anxiety medication at least two hours before leaving Buddy alone.

Even though Buddy woke up our neighbor at seven in the morning, he had an easy-going attitude and didn’t seem to mind. Maybe it was because he had four dogs of his own. He did suggest some of Buddy’s loneliness could be solved if we adopted a companion pet for Buddy. We were not interested. Living quarters are already tight inside our sixteen foot Viking. (We haven’t asked Buddy what he thinks about it.)

As night fell, peace also descended upon the busy campground. Some of the dogs were secure and quiet inside their RV’s. Others close to their owner’s feet, dozed by the campfire. The nightly soundtrack of waking insects began to play as the sun set. The smell of grilled burgers and hot dogs drifted through the air. Campers come and go, yet tonight there is a feeling of community among all of us who love nature, outdoor life, and dogs.

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Dear Readers,

Greetings on this last day of 2018. How was your year? Did you have some memorable moments? First, I want to thank all of you who have faithfully followed my blog. Some of you have not left comments, but I check my stats, and I know you’re out there!

When I started my site in 2016, I wanted to encourage people to find fulfillment in pursuing their interests. For me, writing is the spice of life, and this blog has given me an opportunity to share my passions. I’ve crossed paths with those who love nature, history, poetry, books, family life, beagles, and all things Florida.

Today I want to step back and reflect upon my blogging year. Here are my most read posts of 2018. Click on the link to see what others have enjoyed reading:

Dover Shores: Thanks for the Memories

Sharing Books with Kindred Spirits

Redefining Age with Valerie Ramsey

buddy’s world

Poetry: A Message in a Bottle

I’ll admit my blog is kind of a mixed bag. But it’s a reflection of me, and I’m a person with many interests. Narrowing myself to one area of expertise seems kind of boring.

In closing, I hope you have time to pause and reflect upon your life this year. This morning I made a list of all of my blessings. When compared with my challenges, the blessings won! I love this quote from Melody Beattie.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates vision for tomorrow.”

I invite you to continue to follow me in 2019 as I meander the road less followed. Best wishes for a joyful January as we walk into 2019.

Cooking, Then and Now

Do you like to cook? Whether you do or not, I’m sure you enjoyed someone else’s cooking during this holiday season. Food is a big deal for my family. As the chief cook, I’ve spent quite a bit of time of time in the kitchen during the last two weeks. In addition to the tried and true recipes my family members expect, I like to unveil at least one new dish.

This year my search for cookie recipes led me to an ancient resource. As I scanned the books on my shelf, I came across Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, published in 1950 by General Mills. This family heirloom, handed down from my mom, describes American family life during that decade.

Betty Crocker dedicates her cookbook, “to homemakers everywhere who like to minister to their dear ones by serving them good food. Cooking for your family is the age-old way to express love and concern for their welfare.”

Most women of the 1950’s were not employed outside the home. Their days were spent cooking, cleaning, and caring for children. The book contains tips on how to keep your husband happy. For instance, “The clever wife has a simple appetizing cocktail (cold in summer, hot in winter) ready for her weary husband when he comes home from work.” By the way, all of the drinks listed are non-alcoholic. I never knew there were so many ways to jazz up tomato juice.

The book gives pointers on meal planning and purchasing quality food. The appearance of the meal when served is important. Cooks should add “finishing touches” in the form of garnishes. Dinner was an event, that demanded proper dress and manners. This was the same time period as the Leave it to Beaver TV show, when Ward, the dad, wore a suit around the house. June, the mom, always wore a dress, pearls, and high heels.

Quite a contrast to today’s culture where meals consist of pre-prepared foods hastily gobbled down in front of the TV. (Microwaves were not invented yet.) Does your family sit in the dining room for dinner? Recently I’ve noticed many people are no longer doing their own grocery shopping. They order food online and pay a professional shopper to gather it and have it ready for pick up.

My favorite part of the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book are the snippets of food history included. At the time of publication, appetizers were new to American cuisine. According to Betty, the custom of appetizers began in ancient Rome. People munched on chicory, endive, or celery to excite hunger. Later the Europeans elaborated on the custom, by advancing to caviar and anti-pasta. By 1950, Americans were becoming more cosmopolitan and refined. The hostess who served appetizers was considered chic because the activity of moving around in the living room before a meal put guests at ease.

Although I didn’t actually prepare anything from my historic cookbook this holiday season, it was a great conversation piece. A lot has changed about American kitchens over the past seventy years but people are still eating and enjoying food!

Have your culinary methods of cooking and serving food changed over the years? Leave a comment and tell me about it. Bon Appetite!

Feeling Deflated This December?

Are you tired of running the December rat race? My race to prepare for Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving and still continues. Social norms dictate my actions. My days are full of decorating, shopping, and baking. One week I attended nine social events. I feel like the burnt out Santa pictured above.

The Pressure to Maintain Tradition

I have friends who schedule a long cruise every December to purposely avoid the craziness. That’s not a bad idea, but I doubt if I would ever be bold enough to change. I’m too much of a traditionalist. Every year I tell myself I’m going to scale down my preparations. Do I really need to bake seven kinds of cookies? Do I need to send cards this year? It’s difficult to stop doing something you’ve always done. Sure, cookies are time consuming to make, but everyone loves to eat them. Cards take some effort to send, but they are a way of maintaining contact with loved ones who aren’t on facebook. 

The Pressure To Feel Happy

 Another dynamic that December brings is the pressure to be happy. Upbeat Christmas music plays in the stores. “Tis the season to be jolly” carries an expectation to be full of good cheer. Unfortunately tragedy never takes a holiday. For the countless number of people who’ve experienced a loss at this time of year, the anniversary of the event brings a time of renewed grief. The idea that it’s somehow wrong to to be sad only adds to their despair. 

The Pressure to Please Others

Each year we are inundated with keeping up with marketing trends. Advertisements pressure us to get new models of gadgets we already have that can do more things and do them faster. Desperate to please our loved ones, we overspend. I like this reminder:

You are not obligated to continue holiday traditions that leave you broke, overwhelmed, or tired.

A Matter of the Heart

One of my favorite Christmas stories is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. The Whos of Who-ville had completed all of their holiday preparations. They decorated their homes, prepared for a feast, and hung their stockings on the mantel. But while they were sleeping, the Grinch stole everything. Yet, when they got up Christmas morning, they celebrated as if nothing was missing. They gathered in the town square, held hands and sang to welcome Christmas. This left the Grinch perplexed. 

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more. ” 

Dr. Suess captured everything I feel in these two lines. Yes, Christmas will come without all the traditions I usually keep. The gifts I  hastily wrap and place beneath the tree are no comparison to God’s gift of Jesus Christ to mankind. The traditions of man cannot match God’s love.  Knowing this helps me reframe the true meaning of the holiday. Christmas is an intangible matter of the heart. I want to experience more of God’s love this December. That usually begins by taking the time to seek Him. That’s something I want to do more.

What are your thoughts on December? Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. If you are feeling deflated, may this Christmas give you the opportunity to consider God’s love for you. 

Lock Up The Luggage of Worry

Worry robs today of creative energy.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.”

The words of Jesus from John 14:1 remind me I have a choice every day. I can decide to trouble my  heart, or trust in God. I trouble my heart when I continue to play negative tapes in my mind. These tapes often include fears about the future. 

Worry robs today of creative energy. 

Sometimes people feel obligated to worry. As if worrying is necessary baggage to carry along on the journey of life. Some carry their worries in a briefcase, others drag an oversized suitcase behind them everywhere they go. I’m kind of in the middle. My worries fit neatly in a backpack but it’s heavy and the load keeps me from climbing the high places. 

Stop and think about the mental energy we use when we worry. Couldn’t that energy be spent writing, painting, or gardening? What could we accomplish if we set our suitcase to the side and refused to open it? 

Worry robs today of it’s joy.

When we live in the present we start to be more aware of our surroundings. We hear a bird chirping outside our window. We smell the coffee brewing in the kitchen. Put your hand over your heart. Feel your pulse and rejoice because you are alive! 

Most of the time the exercise of “troubling our hearts” doesn’t solve whatever problem we’re dwelling upon. It only makes us feel anxious.  So how do we put a lock on our luggage?

Present your requests to God.

Once you’ve prayed about your concern, imagine tucking it away and locking it up. Allow the peace of God to fill your mind. Remember, God wants the best for you. He will be with you in all of your tomorrows. 

Do Something!

“You’ve got to get busy living or get busy dying.”

The quote from the movie, The Shawshank Redemption offers good advice. We can choose how to occupy our time. Each day is a gift. We can waste it by rearranging the worries in our luggage, or lock it up and set it aside. 

What does being busy living look like to you? Let’s not waste the gift of today. Take a walk. Read a good book. Bake cookies. Take a friend to coffee. Make a list of all the the things in your life you are thankful for. Enjoy today. Sleep well tonight. Enjoy tomorrow. 

“Whatever is lovely, think about such things. And may the God of peace be with you.” Phillippians 4:8,9