Sunday, September 15, 2019

Advice on Writing a Book

 Wouldn't it be grand if there were such a book? Well, I am sure that there are books such as this. The problem with it? There is no one way. One size does not fit all. Every writer must find their own way. It is good, at least I find it is good for me, to read great writers' advice. Some make perfect sense to me, some make me laugh and others give me food for thought, which is not always a bad thing!

Most writers would agree that the hardest part of writing is the beginning. There are others, like me, who feel the ideas are flowing and that is not a problem. For me, the problem begins with showing up daily to give shape to my ideas with the right words and phrases. Thinking to the future, which I try not to, is then wondering how my writing will be received.

I have looked over some great writers' advice and would like to share it with anyone who is a writer or thinks they may want to delve into writing.

Although, I have not read that many of Ernest Hemingway's books, (shame on me) I discovered that he had some of the more memorable quotes on writing:
  • "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
  • When he was asked what was the scariest thing he ever encountered he answered, "A blank sheet of paper."
  • "The first draft of everything is shit."
  • "Prose is architecture, not interior decoration."
  • "Write drunk, edit sober."

As I was writing this blog, I shared all of these quotes with my husband. He then fixed a Bloody Mary for me, following up with a glass of merlot.

And so I am. Just crazy and trying to think! Not on my novel work but my weekly blog, which sometimes is just as challenging to write, just shorter.

So the quotes that I found to help me or at least make me ponder were:

Elmore Leonard ~ "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.""I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

E. L. Doctorow ~ "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

Henry Miller ~ "When you can't create you can't work."

John Steinbeck ~ "Abandon the idea  that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day. It helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised."

Just because you feel that you have an artistic temperament, does not necessarily help in becoming a writer, singer or artist.

I have read, as I am sure you have too, that many writers were rejected time and time again. J.K Rowling, Stephen King, Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and Dr. Seuss, just to name a few.

There is one book which can help, it is just not a "how to book" is called The Elements of Style." It gives some perspective on writing.

Back to some quotes that I highly believe in.

Harper Lee ~ "My advice to any person who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide."

W. Somerset Maugham ~ "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Stephen King ~ "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time - or the tools - to write."

"I am always chilled and astonished by the would-be writers who ask me for advice and admit, quite blithely, that they don't have time to read. This is like a guy starting up Mount Everest saying that he didn't have time to buy rope or pitons."

Mark Twain ~  "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."

Eudora Welty ~ "Beware of tidiness."

William Zinsser ~ If writing seems hard, it's because it is hard. It is one of the hardest things people do."

Neil Gaiman ~ "Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there'll always be better writers than you and there'll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that- but you are the only you."

Lev Grossman ~ "Don't take anyone's writing advice too seriously."

William Faulkner ~ "Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him."

Aside from the 'great writers' advice, there are other people that I have listened to. Some of their advice made loads of common sense to me. Such as:

 This piece of advice came from my marketing manager, my husband, who has the degree in marketing. FIND MY VOICE. Do this through my blog and carry over to my novel. Smart man, in my opinion.

Sometimes, I need this sign in front of me. Just sit down and write. Write. Write.

Today, or this afternoon and into the early evening, I needed this sign. There was a slight distraction for me going on. My New Orleans Saints were losing due to Drew Brees wrists. I missed what happened but things went downhill fast. However, I kept writing and hopefully this will be a coherent blog. 

Happy Sunday!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

What To Wear?

When I retired, so many people told me that I could now put away my stylish clothes, heels and jewelry and put on t-shirts and sweats everyday. Never having to worry about make-up or any of the fashion style that I tried to have while in the working world. Obviously, they did not know me very well. 

Even while in the working world, there were weekends. Did I let myself go on Saturday and Sunday or days off when I had a routine job to go to daily? The answer is a big fat NO! There are many reasons why and I will try to touch on some of my reasoning. It may go against what others believe in and all I can say is to each their own. What makes me feel comfortable does not necessarily make you feel comfortable, nor should it.

First of all, I was brought up by two very Southern ladies: my Mom and my Mamaw. Neither one of them came out of the bedroom in the morning without at least washing their faces and putting on a moisturizer and a dab of lipstick, along with a brush through their hair at the bare minimum. Then they would make breakfast for themselves and sometimes others before going back and dressing for the day. If they were headed out to work, they came out fully dressed to go, make up, hair and all. If they were staying home, they would dress a bit more casually, but very stylish and most definitely makeup. Their motto was to look your best helps one to mentally feel better about themselves. It worked for them, therefore this would become my motto as well. At this stage, I should add that when I went off to college my sorority house mother felt this same way. We were not to come out of our rooms in the morning without adding a bit of color to our faces and dressing for the day. (I am pretty sure that it is not still like that now.)

Just so you know this was not just a female habit, my Papaw and brother were expected to come into the mainstream of the house looking nice also. No one ever came out in slouchy pajamas. They were either dressed or had a nice robe on for breakfast before going back to dress for the day. On weekends my Papaw would always be working on "stuff" in his garage. This became every day once he was retired. He had a standard outfit, of which my Mamaw made sure were always clean, pressed and hanging in his closet.
He would never wear this out except possibly to the hardware store. If we were going out he dressed in what today is considered business casual but never ever went out without his hat.

In today's world there is advice on how to dress for every situation such as the new Mom, the woman going back in the work place and of course the catalogs that show everything in between. From what I see when I go out now that I am retired, maybe there should be articles about women who are a bit older (but not feeling older) of what choices we have to dress. 

Really, it comes down to what one feels about themselves. Having my kind of family background probably is why I feel the way I do. It is not a case of dressing for others, but for myself. It just makes me feel good. I am not criticizing but taking notice that I feel too many of us are lumped together with a frumpy image of a woman going around in sweats or work out shorts and t shirts and no makeup. The next two pictures are not that bad, just not something that I would not want to go out shopping in, yet when I go to the grocery or run errands, I see so much worse than this. Again, I must say, to each their own. If this makes you feel good about yourself, then go for it.

There is a time for work out clothes and just a touch of make up since we sweat it off anyway, plus a pulled back pony tail or head band to keep hair out of your face for working out. I am lucky, in that we have turned a room in our home into a workout room and it has three pieces of equipment and weights so there is no need to go out to a gym. When I did go out to the gym, I used the locker room to change and add a touch of makeup if I were going anywhere after my workout. Otherwise, it was straight home to shower and to become ME again. Even if I were not going out again, I wanted to feel like ME again and get something casual on with a bit of makeup. After all, in my mind at least, I had that workout glow going for me so why not touch it up a bit? Nothing wrong with a pair of jeans and casual shirt with comfy shoes for the day. 

There are some days that I may be headed out to lunch or an appointment or a special date with my husband. I love to throw together comfy, yet very stylish outfits and then move on to writing at my desk. It just makes me feel good.

You must determine your personality to help you dress successfully as a retiree. The best way is to determine if your personality is more classic, romantic, bohemian, dramatic, minimalist or sporty. Each personality will have different types of clothes. I personally feel that I can fit somewhat into each personality category, depending on how I feel each morning. That way it gives me some different styles to choose from. If you ever watched "Grace & Frankie" with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, then you may know that Grace is the classic, while Frankie is the creative bohemian. Being in a successful TV series, the writers tend to take each character strictly by their personality type. Without going overboard in the classic wardrobe, that along with some romantic style and sporty style, I also every once in a while like a simple bohemian look. After all, I am a writer, former musician and wanna be artist.

There is a whole new "pro-age" makeup routine going around. It seemed to have started with BOOM, by Cindy Joseph. She was discovered as a model at age 49. In my favorite catalog from Chico's, I noticed her right away. She looked as if she were glowing in every picture and since I am a Chico's kind of gal, to me she always looked stylish. Due to her good looks as she aged, she discovered BOOM cosmetics and showed many women, through YOU TUBE, just how to achieve a natural, graceful look, no matter what your age.

It is up to each woman to decide what makes her feel good about herself, not what others see, but about how she feels. My thoughts on clothing when you are retired are that your requirements are not that much different from the clothes you wore to work; smart and casual. I feel like too many women start dressing really old for fear of dressing too young or that they feel so comfort driven that sweat pants and a hoodie become their staple in their wardrobe. Don't get me wrong! I have some great sweat suits that are stylish and actually came from Chico's. On cool days, they are very comfortable yet stylish. (not just any old pair of sweats and throw on sweatshirt) The other days, it is quite exciting to throw on a comfortable outfit with necklace or scarf, whether I am going out or not. It just makes me feel good.

Anyone can look at the before and after pictures above and see the difference. To me, just looking at the two pictures, I can even feel the difference. It is all about aging gracefully. Style puts spice in my life and somehow I feel much more confident within myself. Finding the right outfit for the day adds to looking forward to an exciting day, whether it be sitting at my desk writing, or easy chair reading or just "being at home" with the love of my life. 

No way can I leave out that my husband seems to feel the same way. He never has lost his touch of style, whether it is comfortable jeans or shorts with a great fitting polo shirt and sometimes even a great  t-shirt. Whatever he chooses, it is the image that he wants to create for himself.

It is a feel good image that even on days when one does not feel their best, it helps mentally give you the "ummpphh" that you need to carry on in a more positive manner. There are more and more baby boomers out there and no one needs to be a frumpy old grandma or great-grandma. (or grandpa for that matter!)

To end on a positive note let me give you a great picture and quote. 

"I am not interested in looking younger. I want to look healthy and radiant. I want to look like me."
Cindy Joseph

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Responsible Pet Owners

Most of us all want to be considered a responsible pet owner. If not, then shame on you! Steve and I actually were really wanting to have a dog to come home to daily. However, it would not have been fair to the dog if we had one while we were working. Our hours did not allow for a dog to be home alone, not going out and receiving one on one interactions. We did not know anyone who could come a few times a day to let our dog out and go for a short walks each day. 

To each their own, but for the kind of dog that we wanted, we did not want our dog out in weather, even with a nice dog house. We wanted an inside dog. I understand hunting dogs, as long as they are well protected against the elements, probably do belong outside. Our yard just was not a suitable place to have an outside dog, due to a swimming pool.

So what did we do? We waited until I retired and then did some research on which breed of dog would fit our lifestyle. There are some wonderful rescue dogs and some of them you do not have to go through the "puppy stage" with them. We, however, wanted to start at the beginning of their lives. I have heard many wonderful stories of adopted rescue dogs. Not knowing enough about dogs, I know that it is also not quite so easy finding out the history of most rescue dogs. This was important to both of us, as we have grandchildren and need a dog who will love to be around young children. This was not an easy decision and took much research. 

We wanted to find a breeder of golden doodles that was nearby. Goldens are known for their goofy personalities and intelligence. They do seem to be hypo-allergenic but we did not get one (or two) who do not shed. They don't shed much, but they do shed in tumbleweeds rolling across the floor over to a corner. (Roombas help to control this.) Luckily for us, through a friend from high school on Facebook, she gave me a name of a breeder only about an hour or so away. 

I called Kim Mills Davis, owner of Doodles by Design and we were able to come to her house to pick out the remaining pups in the current liter. We were able to see the Mom and Dad and how wonderful she kept them in their own special home. It was clean and she was so loving with them. We are hands on and our first puppy definitely chose us by climbing all over Steve and being persistent, even though one of his little sisters kept pushing him out of the way. He was ours. Stole our hearts immediately.

We were like parents of a newborn. Davis Miles came home with us at 8 weeks cuddled in my lap wrapped in his red fleece blanket that Kim gave us with the scents of his liter mates.

It was not that difficult, actually. He caught on to ringing the tinkle bells to go out and not once had an accident in his crate that he went into at night. We did leave it open during the day and he went in and came out as he pleased. It was his spot. We did limit the spaces in the house that he was allowed to go and that helped in two ways: having an accident or mainly getting hold of a tea towel, a pillow or something that he was not to have, including chewing on woodwork. He was our chewer. 

When he became old enough to be neutered, we
 talked to our vet. It is something that ALL responsible pet owners should do unless they are going to become a reputable breeder. After getting it all set up, the day came and all went well until we came to pick him up and this is what we saw:

Truly, it was pitiful. I had seen these contraptions before, however, I was sure that this being 2017, something better was out there to use to keep pets from licking and tearing their stitches. Obviously, not.
Davis barely fit through doorways in our home, much less the car. It was hard to get a drink or to eat, and forget about a comfortable sleep. We had to fold it in to fit him in his crate and there was no turning around inside. We had 11 days of this torture. He went through it more than we did but it tore us up to see him like this. Happy days when he got it off, yet this was not before he had chewed it off and had to get a new one. Pieces of plastic were everywhere and who knows how much he digested? Thank goodness, not enough to harm him. 

Time marched on and we were happier and happier with having Davis around. It was wonderful when Steve retired and Davis did not have to race to the back door when he heard the garage door open, knowing that Steve would be coming in to pet and play with him. I was with him already all day so I became something like chopped liver. 

More and more we were seeing and hearing that two doodles were better than one. We ignored it for a while and then saw how others played together, and had a playmate always. Maybe they were right? We really did not pursue it until I noticed on Kim's page, her new liter of puppies. Two liters, in fact, ranging in cream, apricot, red, chocolate and black. Davis was black and gets loads of comments about being a black goldendoodle. His Mom was a standard black AKC poodle and his Dad was an AKC English Golden Retriever. All of the pups were black. 

These two liters were F2, and parents, who were there on the premises, were both golden doodles. We were thinking that we would like a mini goldendoodle because Davis is 55 - 60 pounds. These puppies were not minis, however, Kim's guess would be  40 - 45 pounds based on parents. DNA plays a big part in this. Davis has a liter mate who is 95 pounds. That's a big puppy dog. And doodles do think they are always puppies; little lap dogs.

We decided to go with Davis to see if any of these puppies seemed the right fit for our family. One of the females started nuzzling Davis and both of their tails were going non-stop. 

Davis and Maggie Mae became inseparable from the very beginning. Where he went, she went and wherever she went, he went. They shared everything. 

No squabbling, mainly because if they both received a bully stick, they went off happy for about 2 minutes and that is when Maggie Mae took Davis' stick and also had hers. Davis just let her, knowing that he would get it back soon. She was ruthless with him, pulling on his tail or legs or ears. He just let her play. Once he thought that enough was enough, he gently put one of his big paws over her to quiet her. She listened. Dogs have their own way of communicating.

Maggie Mae was turning 6 months and we decided to go with our wonderful vet's advice that research shows owners can do it before or after first heat without worry. Now was the time. I was already dreading that cone coming home with her after the surgery. I had some friends who told me that they trimmed 5 inches off the diameter to make it more manageable. Others told me of a 'onesie' like babies wear. It snaps to let access to go to the bathroom, yet keeps the pet from licking at and tearing into stitches. I asked our vet about that one and they did not approve of those based on the fabric not allowing the stitches to heal. Guess it depends on the stitches and whether they are covered in bandages, etc.


 She did say, however, that they now used the 'E-soft cone' that was a soft pillow around their necks. Everyone of her clients loved these. They work and they are cute as can be. 

Below are some pictures and a brief history of how 'the cone' came to be and how things are improving. 

The cone's official name is the E-collar, which is short for the Elizabethan collar, from the Elizabethan times in the UK. The nickname is the 'cone of shame' given to it by pet owners because of its bad reputation from pet owners and the social media.

Veterinarians actually used whatever they could to make do with a cone shape our of cardboard or even the film of old x-rays to help their pet patients stay away from their stitches. The E-collar was actually patented by a man in the U.S. in 1959. It is like the one that Davis wore in the picture above.

If you look at this E-collar, perhaps you are like me. This is just plain "overkill." Way too big. This large dog would be like a bull in a china shop wielding this thing around. Surely there is a better way?

And no! This is NOT the way. I must admit it did make me chuckle. It does show the absurdity of it all. At least there the cone was not the size of the poor dog in the picture above.

This is our Maggie Mae wearing the soft E-collar. Although she does not look to be smiling, remember she just had surgery. She can at least fit through doors and has a nice soft pillow to rest her head on when she sleeps. It does not look to be some archaic device from the dark ages. We are so happy that if she must wear one (and we get why she must) this is the one that works for all of us. 

Some friends have told us that they could take off their doodles e-collar because their doodle did not ever bother their stitches. Well, I did try that and within 2 minutes, Maggie Mae was working at licking the bandage and tape over her stitches. The collar went right back on. That is just not her personality. 

We are counting down the days to when she gets this off. 7 more days. We can do this!