Wednesday
Oct222014

WHAT i'VE LEARNED ABOUT PATIENCE FROM A DOG NAMED SHELBY

“How poor are they that have not patience!”

Othello by William Shakespeare

                I’ve been able to go through my life so far with some positive attributes and some negative ones.  If one were to place them all on a scale, I would imagine one side would be much lower to the   ground than the other. 

                I met Shelby at an estate sale.  I was wandering around, seeing if there was anything that I could purchase for my small antique business and I overheard someone mentioning that they were looking for a home for the dog that lived there.  I wandered around some more and finally, after running out of excuses not to, asked about this dog.  I found out she had been a rescue dog who had been adopted and then the owner passed away leaving her once again, homeless. They brought her outside and she let me pet her and then she leaned up against my leg and just kept staring, her eyes boring a hole right through me. 

                For those of you who read Jerry’s columns and articles in GUN WORLD, DILLON’S BLUE PRESS, KNIVES ILLUSTRATED  and the like you may have seen an occasional photo of him with Honey, or as she was referred to often as, Honey the Wonder Dog.  Honey was part of our family for over fifteen years and for the most part was a perfect lady.  She was gentle with children, didn’t bark more than she had to, got along with most people and only occasionally knocked over things with her huge bushy tail.  She was pretty much of a no hassle dog.  Unfortunately, Honey passed away three years ago.  Good to the end, she waited until Jerry and I got over to the veterinary hospital where she had been staying to breath her last.

                  We kept talking about getting another dog but just kept putting it off.  Shortly after Jerry passed away I was at an auction and ended up with three fish tanks complete with all the necessary accessories.  After leaving the tanks in the garage for a few months, I decided to set up one of the tanks and go crazy with four Wal-Mart goldfish.  Within a week one died but the others are still swimming through their mucky waters. 

                Back to Shelby.  I refused to be seduced by the soulful puppy looks I was given by this creature and the body language that was oozing out of her onto my leg.  Staying strong,I merely suggested that if no family decided to take her in the next few days to give me a call and I would.  Somehow I assumed that she would go off to start a new life and I could tell myself that I had done the right thing in offering her a home.  I got the call.  She came to live with me.   Life changed.

                Shelby was very shy.  She would not go through a door unless I went through first and assured her that it wouldn’t be slammed shut behind her.  She followed me everywhere.  She gobbled down her food as if afraid it would go missing if she didn’t finish it right away.  Any toy given to her was carried around until she thought no one was looking.  Then she buried it by removing couch cushions and pillows, placing the toy in a good spot and then covering it up again – neatly.   Every few hours she would uncover her hidden object and rebury it in a different location. She was afraid of the dishwasher (I don’t blame her there; it makes a lot of noise) and the washing machine. When the ice maker dropped ice cubes you’d think we had just been attacked by aliens. If she thought she did something wrong she would hide under the bed with her butt and stub of a tail showing in full view.

                Most of her timidity has subsided.  If she hears a strange noise now instead of hiding, she barks her head off.  Instead of shying away from the cows in the pasture behind our house she instead singles out the bull and attempts to stare him down.  Considering the fact that he has escaped and ended up on our property, I don’t know if this is such a good idea on her part. She has terrorized my goldfish to the point that they won’t come up to the top of the tank to feed unless she’s in another part of the house.  One night she stole their food container and buried it. She has become my protector against the six week old puppy across the street who she thinks is the devil incarnate. 

                Honey would not touch food unless it was offered to her; a turkey dinner would be safe to leave on the table.  Shelby, on the other hand, can stand up and remove food from the top of the stove.  One evening, I put the main course higher up in the microwave while eating dinner only to find out that she went instead for the steamed broccoli that I didn’t think would appeal to her.  She also likes frozen peas and lettuce.

At bedtime, Shelby has half of the couch which she can take over once I put down a cover.  A quick walk in the dark, flashlight in hand and soon, lights out.  Since her first night with me, Shelby has tiptoed into the bedroom as quietly as a black ninja with toenails on an uncarpeted floor can and stolen one of my slippers.  She either places it in front of the couch or on the couch next to her head.  Some nights she will grab any cooking utensil or spoon left in her reach and do the same with it.  She took a sponge off the kitchen sink once and arranged it along with her other items.  Some nights she adds her toys.  I have learned to pick up after dinner anything that I don’t want carried off. 

     I have also learned that change can sometimes be acceptable.  I am one of those utterly disgusting morning people who jump out of bed, get ready and go down to the office to start my day.  Now, Shelby hears my feet touching the floor and is there to greet me.  Out we go into the dawn’s early light, me hoping to not run into any of my neighbors or dogs or cows and Shelby, after a refreshing night’s sleep, ready to track down any intruding grasshoppers and follow the paths of crazy night monsters that disappeared with the light of day.  Wanting to drag her to a decent spot to do her duty I instead hold my temper and let the scenario run its usual course just as I do in the midnight hours with flashlight in hand imagining the origins of the night sounds around us just past the light’s reach.  Shelby has learned words not expected out of a grandmother’s mouth and has been called many things by me.  She so far has not repeated any of them.

     Ready to go into the office and turn on the computer, I’m stopped by that wagging stump of a tail and an enthusiastic dog with a tennis ball sticking out of her mouth.  We play for a while and then I sneak downstairs.  I work for a while and she joins me, listening with me to the local classical music station.  She’s also into Bee Gees, Queen and Neal Diamond.  We both hope to get his new album!  Then it’s time for a walk around the property just to make sure everything is just as it should be and time for her to have a light snack.  We go back to the office until the mail comes, then the school bus… Eventually, I do get done what needs to. 

     Shelby was given to me to teach me patience – a virtue I never embraced earlier in my life – just ask my children.  Some things might take longer to accomplish but what can come close to a seventy pound hound dog who wants to give you a hug and teach you how to stop and play.

Sharon

 

Sunday
Oct052014

 RETREAT

                The word retreat can conjure up various images depending on our backgrounds and lifestyles.  To some, the phrase “beating a hasty retreat” may be reminiscent of something none of us usually depicts as a positive action.  Picture if you will, Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Russia in the summer of 1812 where he led an army of more than 500,000 individuals.  He went in strong and sure of victory only to retreat, unable to withstand the guerilla-style tactics of the inhabitants and the harsh winter weather.  Napoleon’s army suffered a devastating loss of more than 400,000 men that winter. It sounds like he had a bummer year and most of the rest of his life proceeded pretty much on that same slippery, downward slope. 

 

 

  

                Those of you who have read THE SURVIVALIST series can envision the Rourke clan hanging out in the great room at their Retreat, watching old movies and nuking popcorn, the waterfall in the back of the room making pleasant background noises.  John Rourke, in my scenario, is apologizing once again for having vinyl instead of leather furniture due to the length of time in use as he explains that leather, by this time in their lengthy stay, would have cracked and rotted. Their retreat into the depths of the Retreat was done out of necessity, the only path left open for long term survival.  This was in no way a cowardly decision but a decision to remain alive against certain death plus, Jerry and I were not ready to end the series thanks to the massive response we received from readers all over the world. 

                A retreat doesn’t need to be a complete turnaround; a forward motion now going in the opposite direction to avoid conflict nor does a retreat necessitate having a mighty fortress ready to  shroud and protect you from harm. 

                I agree with this quote from Albert Camus.  “In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion."  Most of us can relate to biting off a bit more than we can handle and retreating to a safe spot to regroup and once again move forward with our plans. Sometimes, a stop along the way is the only option.   This can be as straightforward as taking one step back and trying to reorganize, maybe think through a situation or just recharge your inner battery to make things clearer and less stressful.  A retreat can be as simple as a long soak in the tub with the bathroom door locked or listening to your favorite tunes through a good set of headphones while the rest of your family is engrossed in watching the game or a movie on the Hallmark channel.  A good entertaining book can take you anywhere instead of where you are; it can take you where you want to be or surprise you with an undreamed of location. A two hour action flick might be all that stands in the way of you doing bodily harm to someone and regretting it later or saying something that may not be what you really want to be remembered for.

            Just remember that if you must retreat make sure you don’t end up retrogressing, because I don’t think it has any other meaning except to put you in a worse place than you are.

Sharon

Thursday
Sep252014

A TOO PERFECT WORLD

Yesterday I received a copy of a southern oriented magazine I’ve subscribed to for many years.  Besides the usual gardening tips and recipes and travel information, their home decorating section had an article dealing with styling your coffee table.  After reading the one page tutorial and looking at the photograph of a finished example, I realize I am sorely lacking in coffee table finesse. 

                There’s this tray that I’m supposed to place on my table that “will set the tone” and “anchor the composition” of the look I’m to achieve.  Next, I’m to arrange books on the table.  Now, this does not mean you’re supposed to display books that you actually are reading; what would people think if they saw a paperback thriller or a steamy romance novel sitting out in plain view?  No, only hardcover books that “reflect your interests” are allowed and they must be neatly stacked with the spines prominent.  More than one stack is preferable with some on the table and some placed on the tray. I’m sure color is dependent on your living room walls and accents already in place unless you want to perform an entire redo.

                The dos and don’ts go on as you are advised as to what other accessories are needed to fill this coffee table and the heights and shapes required that will work to achieve success.  After following this step by step guideline you’ll perhaps try running out to your local home décor store to buy additional items to display.  If you still feel this tray is lacking something or the look is still not what you want, you can go online for additional help with an instructional video.

                I’ve decided rather than going to all the trouble and expense it’s going to take to impress visitors, I’ll just become a recluse and invite no one into my home.  Order is not the norm in my life and I do not embrace coordination unless walking down a flight of stairs is involved.  I proudly embrace chaos and welcome it into my abode

                Whenever there’s a family gathering, you can be sure that not all the adults are drinking from a matching set of wine glasses and you can count on one of the younger folk sucking down Ginger Ale from a Christmas themed mug or one of the other mismatched vessels available.  My serving plates fall into the same category.  I have a platter that is the last remaining piece from our first set of dishes.  We had a service for twelve with all the various extras that we bought for $29.95 from Montgomery Ward in 1968.  I have a platter that belonged to my mother and one or two that belonged to my mother-in-law.  I don’t call this style informal; I’d just like to think of it as interesting or comfortable. 

                The living room coffee table was acquired over thirty years ago.  I liked it then and I like it now.  It’s just a simple wooden table with glass inserts.  Our children grew up using the table to do homework, draw pictures, leaf through magazines and coloring books and, of course, act as a snack and dinner counter when necessary.  Cats and dogs were on call to help with any cleanup necessary. Shoeless feet and decks of cards could be found stacked there frequently accessorizing and adding detail and height, finishing the total look that we were aiming for.  

                At the break of dawn, or more to the point, when the dog frightens me into thinking she can’t wait any longer to be taken outside, I usually have a clear picture in my mind as to what needs to be accomplished that day.  By 9:00 am I can still see the picture.  By lunchtime the edges are getting a little out of focus and by late afternoon I think to myself that I might need stronger glasses to see around the holes left in my perfect picture.  I don’t beat myself up over my unfinished list of to dos; rather I can look back at the day and see what I did do that I hadn’t even thought of doing.  I guess that makes me an over achiever or perhaps an over doer!  (Does that mean that what task I have completed is overdone?)

                I do realize that there are some tasks that have to be accomplished within a reasonable time but there are others that might be able to be put aside for a while like taking the dog for an extra walk or two because she’s nosey and wants to see what the neighbors are up to and to take a look at the new puppy across the street.  When you remember a friend that you’ve not talked to in a while that might be the perfect time to give a call and say hi.  If you wait for the perfect moment it may be too late.  Dishes pile up, dust collects and you may not have gotten half the tasks done that you’re supposed to and your desk or coffee table may look a mess but think of the other things you’ve done or saw or heard today that might have gone unnoticed otherwise.  Life has two sides, order and chaos.  Who’s to say we can’t have a bit of both?  BTW I’m waiting to see if a photographer from that magazine comes to my house to do a photo shoot.  If it happens, I’ll let you guys know!

Sharon

Tuesday
Sep092014

"WHAT'S IN A NAME? THAT WHICH WE CALL A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD SMELL AS SWEET."

For various reasons many writers find it necessary to have some or all of their works published under names other than their own.  The reason might be gender.  Many early female writers wrote under a manlier sounding name or just used initials, letting readers assume it was written by a man.  The Brontes wrote under different names to both conceal their gender and to shield themselves from their neighbors and friends who were many times depicted as characters in their novels.  Ellery Queen was a pen name for four collaborating authors.  Mathematician, Charles Dodgson wrote fantasy as Lewis Carroll using his given name on his more serious tomes.  Many well-known authors wrote porn under various names to pay the bills while waiting to get their “literature” published.  Some, prolific wordsmiths use many pseudonyms depending on the genre of their work.  Some publishers insist on pseudonyms for their various “house” series with numerous contributors writing as one.

Most of you know that we did some of our writing under an assortment of pseudonyms such as Axel Kilgore and Jack Hillock.  Axel, of course, wrote THEY CALL ME the MERCENARY series for Zebra books between 1980 and 1984.  At the time it seemed prudent to keep that series and THE SURVIVALIST series in separate corners of the bookstore racks.  John Rourke and Hank Frost were both heroic men but in totally different ways.  We kept Rourke’s character so “straight arrow” that most of the time he was totally without a sense of humor. He wouldn’t know a joke if he tripped over it; not that Rourke would ever allow himself to trip.  Hank on the other hand saw humor in everything even if it was while facing a firing squad or explaining how he had lost his eye.  Anyway, it helped us keep John Rourke in the character we chose for him if we could blame Axel for all the stupid, fun stuff in the mercenary series.  Of course there was plenty of blood and gore, much more than in The SURVIVALIST.

Jack Hillock wrote a lot of gun and second amendment articles for certain magazines when Jerry was on the masthead of another.  This happened frequently in the mid to late 70s.  Jack was able to say things that might have been at that time, not politically correct for Jerry to discuss. It was also a good way to start getting fiction looked at by publishers since Jack would get the rejection letter and not Jerry. 

We also shared a pseudonym with many other writers over the years.  We did two Nick Carter-Killmaster books in the early 80s.  There were more than 260 books published between 1964 and 1990 in the series.  Nick Carter always carried his Luger which was named Wilhelmina and his pearl handled stiletto, Hugo.  Pierre, his poison gas bomb was positioned behind his scrotum ready to release its deadly gas with just a twist.  A cross between James Bond and Derrick Flint, they were guilty pleasures to produce.

Jack “Doc” McDuff and Bob “Popcorn” Pruitt were characters we invented for the two books in the RODEO series under the pen name Red Mitchell.  McDuff, is a bronco rider and a veterinarian; Pruitt, a Brahma bull rider.  Both followed the modern rodeo circuit, with plenty of danger both in and outside the arena and the usual supply of pretty women in distress.  Good with six guns and even better with a CAR-1, they travelled in style with Popcorn Pruitt behind the controls of their Beechcraft Baron airplane.  They were both fun characters to explore.  You had the tall, dark and handsome Doc McDuff who usually played the lead and then you had Popcorn, a big burley guy who came off like a country bumpkin but was actually a pretty smart guy. 

I guess today pseudonyms are even more popular than ever.  How many of you use fictitious names on Facebook or on eBay?  Did this all start in elementary school when you had to sign your name for the substitute teacher?  How many Jim Shoes were in your class?

Thursday
Aug212014

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL

 

 

            My youngest granddaughter just lost another tooth.  The gap she has in her smile reminds me of a tunnel for a Lionel train set.  I’ve been told she already has learned how to suck waffles through it to the other side.  There was no remorse, no longing for the baby tooth’s return, just pride in having pulled it herself.  Tooth pulling, I guess, is one of the rites of passage into adolescence.

            With the tooth removed and shown to all of her second grade class, her prize was put into a special tooth container and carried home to be carefully scrutinized by her parents. That evening at bedtime, Olivia’s tooth was buried under her pillow, ready for the tooth fairy to exchange it for something more tradable like cold cash.  She slept through the night certain that the tooth fairy would come and take care of business.

            The next morning, with all the confidence a 7 year old can muster, Olivia’s hand reached under her still warm pillow and pulled out her cash reward, just as she knew it would be there waiting for her. 

            Just like my granddaughter Olivia, we all have hope for another day, for something or someone to fulfill our dreams and expectations.  Annie always knew that the sun would come out tomorrow and so far it has, somewhere.  We are generally a people of optimism and hope.  We may have our cloudy days and maybe our rainy ones but we usually believe that things will get better no matter how serious the situation.

A small section of AN ESSAY ON MAN: EPISTLE I by Alexander Pope tells us this:

Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;

Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore!

 What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,

But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:

Man never is, but always to be blest:

The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

 

Alexander Pope suffered from poor health his entire life and was a crippled and diminutive man, standing only 4’ 6”.  He was denied much of a formal education and was persecuted because of his and his family’s religion.  Given all the negatives in his life, he still advocated that we just don’t know the answers to everything and sometimes we need to rely on hope and faith to carry us forward.  Pope had faith in himself and despite adversities in his life pushed on and became a well known poet; one of the most quoted poets of all time and he was an esteemed translator of both the Iliad and the Odyssey. 

            Just like Pope, we need to have hope and faith in our future but we also need to rely on ourselves to make what we want happen.  That tooth may not fall out on its own; it just might need a little help.

            Hope springs eternal, just ask any child.  

 

Sharon