Roasted

This time of year (in America) people are pondering the gathering together of family to celebrate a holiday that was made up in 1863 as a way to (symbolically) bring a divided nation together. It would be good if that’s what it still meant, because we have a divided country now.

Very vivid in my memory is my family’s first Thanksgiving back in Colorado after living for six years in Nebraska where my dad worked for Strategic Air Command as a wargamer. It was 1966. We’d moved to Colorado Springs and dad went to work at NORAD. We’d been in Colorado Springs maybe six weeks.

My dad hadn’t wanted to move back to Colorado. He knew his physical abilities were deteriorating rapidly. With MS back then, before there was really any treatment, stress could have a yugely deleterious effect. My mom, facing my dad’s deterioration, didn’t want to be alone. Her closest sisters lived in Denver.

So we moved, rented a house and hosted Thanksgiving which involved buying a fancy new turkey roaster.

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I think we used it once…

I was homesick for the small town in Nebraska where we’d lived. I was 14, almost 15. I had had my first boyfriend in Nebraska meaning my first kiss and hand-holding. I was very occupied with YEARNING and listening to The Association sing Cherish. My brother was a kid. I didn’t have friends in the Springs. I sat in the basement watching college football, rooting for the Cornhuskers and trying to care about the outcome because, damn, that was NEBRASKA.

As my mom tried to orchestrate a small family reunion (Aunt Martha, Aunt Kelly, Cousin Linda, me, Kirk and dad) I just wanted it to be over. I wanted the radio to go back to playing the top 40 Rock Hits of the Week (that mattered a lot to me when I was 14). I didn’t even want the days off from school. I wanted normalcy, but it was not to be.

The turkey roaster cooked the turkey OK, but it wasn’t the same as an oven. The skin wasn’t golden and the meat fell off the bones. The dressing was tasty, the gravy had giblets in it (ew), the green bean-mushroom-soup-canned-onion-ring casserole (Aunt Kelly’s, “Bless her heart, Kelly could never cook.” True that), all of it was beige and brown except Aunt Martha’s Jell-o salad. It was the best part of the meal (I made it for a family Thanksgiving a few years ago and it surprised everyone — yeah it’s old-fashioned but it’s really good and refreshing, and so everyone agreed after trying it, though the young’uns initially laughed at it — whether in fear, ridicule or surprise, I don’t know).

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Kinda, sorta. Cream cheese and walnuts (should be on the bottom). Lime Jell-o and pineapple, raspberry jello and cranberries on top. No idea what the mint leaves are doing…

We were all seated around the table (“Martha Ann, made the centerpiece,”) set with the “best china” and the silver-plate and the crystal stemware and the grownups had champagne and my dad had muscle spasms and I yearned for my boyfriend in Nebraska and my brother just wanted to get back to his drawing table in the corner of the basement and continue drawing cartoons.

It didn’t really occur to me until this morning that people who resist the way holidays interrupt their normal lives might have the most to be thankful for. It’s no small thing to like your life.  ❤

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/rdp-thursday-orchestrate/

Squirrel or Cookie?

“Bear! Dusty! What the hell???”

“There, human, over there! BARK BARK BARK BARK!”

“C’mon guys you’re driving the neighborhood crazy.”

“Don’t you humans recognize the danger? BARK BARK BARK!!!”

“Come inside. You can have a cookie.”

And in this way a squirrel on a wire began to mean “cookie” to my dogs.

I’ve had dogs to whom squirrels THEMSELVES meant cookies. The huskies were very good on the job of squirrel control. In Southern California, the squirrels were ground squirrels. My husky, Jasmine, was VERY good at catching them. Another was the esteemed and missed Cody O’Dog. Here’s his squirrel story, retold from the post “Cody O’Dog.”  The year was 2010. The occasion my 40th high school reunion. Cody and I had driven to Colorado Springs from San Diego. After the reunion, we headed north to Montana to visit my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank and Aunt Dickie.

…Cody and I got back in the car and drove to Caspar, Wyoming on our way to visit my Aunt Jo and Aunt Dickie in Billings, Montana. We stayed at a great motel next to the river and had a long walk that evening before turning in. The next day we got to Billings.

My Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank were astonished at Cody’s size. We went out to the back yard to talk and Cody lay on the grass enjoying the cool, but, in his husky way he was also vigilant.

“Is that what he does?” asked my aunt. “Just lie there? He’s so big!”

“Well, he’ll be up in a flash if there’s a reason.”

Just then an immense red squirrel came over the back fence. Cody was up. Noticing the dog who was NOT supposed to be there, the squirrel made a leap for the front fence.  Cody caught it in the air, rang its neck, and gave it to me. Unfortunately, the squirrel wasn’t quite dead so I had to finish it off. My aunt and I took the squirrel’s body out where some scavengers could reap the benefits.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/11/rdp-sunday-squirrel/

Training Dogs

Since I got my first real dog (real meaning I was an adult and I got to keep it for its whole life!), Truffleupagus, in 1987, I’ve had something like 26 dogs — not all at once, though.

 

Truffle and me, 1988

Truffle and me

Dog training is a skill, and I didn’t always have it. Now, I have a pretty good idea of what’s involved when I get a new dog. I’ve learned that sometimes I need expert help, and twice I have sent my dogs to “boarding school.” One of them was Dusty T.  (T for “traumatized”) Dog, the other was the beautiful wild thing, Cheyennie T. Wolf, a smart, willful, humorous three-year-old Siberian husky who’d lived in a backyard all her ilfe.

I have never trained a dog to do anything fancy like agility or even go precisely through movements of a dog show. My dogs have all been taught to be companions in the house, to go on hikes and walks, and to have decent manners with my friends. They’ve been trained to be nice to children and (mostly) not jump up on people, something that’s necessary when you have big dogs.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. Different breeds have different needs. Sometimes the things they have been bred for are at odds with what humans need. Dogs like Siberian Huskies have been bred for centuries to do specific things that aren’t always in line with human expectations (unless you live in Siberia, have a dog team and need furry babysitters). Breeds like golden retrievers, Aussies, Labs (and Bear) watch and observe you to see what you would like and then do it. Study up on your dog’s breed and tailor your training to that. Here’s the list from the American Kennel Club.

I have not had terriers, non-sporting dogs or toy dogs, but I’ve had herding dogs, sporting dogs, a hound (beagle), working dogs (huskies) and now I have a mutt (Doberman/Lab and a livestock guardian dog (Akbash). They present different challenges in training. Some of the easiest dogs to train are mutts, dogs whose ancestry is a mystery.

  1. Walk your dog and if you can’t, get a breed that doesn’t need to be walked. Cesar Milan is right that walking a dog establishes a bond between the dog and the owner AND it tells the dog who the pack leader is. I believe in leashes, but not everyone does. Some dogs (like Dusty) can actually be trained to stay beside you and in your control when they are off leash, but this training takes time. Leashes help keep your dogs safe.

    Leash training can be difficult or easy depending on the breed, age of dog and the amount of patience you have. Ideally, you’ll have a golden retriever puppy who will arrive at your house and hand you a leash (ha ha).

    I took Truffleupagus to school so I could learn how to train her. The school used choke collars. The way a choke collar works is when the puppy pulls, you pull directly up on the choke collar. This is supposed to communicate to the puppy that you don’t like what it’s doing. For this to actually happen the collar has to be on properly and the person has to be attentive and demanding. Honestly, they never worked for me with Truffle or any other dog. But the IDEA is sound.

    In the meantime, other devices were invented. Because I’m a little person with big dogs, I use a Halti brand of gentle leader. These are very useful. For training, the dog is stopped in a body-part it understands; its nose. For just walking a dog who is not a champion on-leash heeling hero (such as Dusty T. Dog) the Halti prevents the dog from pulling (except maybe in extreme situations like a C-A-T or something).


    How you train your dog depends on you. Bear is a breed who cannot go off leash ever. This kind of messes with her instincts (which are also why she can’t go off leash). She wants to track, guard, protect and what that means on a walk is if she smells something she must find it or I am in danger. Dogs like Bear wander the hills with their sheep all on their own for days. Bear doesn’t have that possibility so we compromise. Most of her leash walks are random wandering around places where she can smell and track to her heart’s content — but she wears a Halti. Today we covered a couple of miles on one tiny part of the golf course where roam raccoons, badgers, elk, deer, feral cats and other dogs. She needs this and a mile is a mile.

  2. Spend LOTS of time training your dog but keep training sessions short. From your dog’s perspective, basic obedience is GREAT. It’s FUN. You’re there with the dog, it has your undivided attention, it’s making you happy (it wants to!) and it knows this because you’re giving it pats and treats. Training sessions should start with puppies and continue for the dog’s whole life. From the dog’s perspective, it’s not training, it’s sharing a special moment with you. It reinforces the bond between you and teaches your dog what makes you happy.

    It’s important that a dog (even a Siberian husky anarchist from hell) learn sit, down, stay, stop, wait, come.Treats are a dog’s language for “good dog” but so are pats and toys. You can teach your dog to accept all of those as rewards just by switching them around and not being predictable.

    Bear loves to heel at the end of a long ramble of smells and snow. She will position herself under my left hand and walk close enough to me that I can pet her as we go along. It’s all she wants and it makes both of us happy. Her behavior has reminded me how MUCH our dogs want to be near us.

    Bear went to puppy school and we learned the routine for performing at a dog show. She LOVES it. I practiced with her at the local high school parking lot and still, three years later, if I turn into that parking lot on one of our walks, Bear immediately shifts into her obedience routine. We usually do it two or three times a week. Obedience is not fascism.
  3. Don’t be afraid of electronic training devices that “hurt” your dog HOWEVER you should try to avoid hitting your dog. Cheyennie T. Wolf was incorrigible, having spent the first years of her life in a back yard ignored. My trainer had to resort to an electric collar to get Cheyennie to stop counter surfing, pay attention on a leash, and not run away. Within two hours of the collar, Cheyennie didn’t need the collar any more. The point of this kind of training aid is that it’s temporary. After that, whenever Cheyennie wore her training collar (I put it on her without ever turning it on) she got incredibly happy because she knew she was going to get undivided attention and treats and she was going to do things right.

    Hitting your dog is a bad idea, but sometimes it happens. Hitting a dog with a newspaper or something soft or occasionally because you’ve had it and can’t take any more, well, it happens, but your dog doesn’t know why it’s happening. Punishing a dog after the misbehavior is meaningless because a dog doesn’t have the same concept of time humans have. You want corrections to coincide with misbehavior.

    This is a “sentence” translated from dog immediately after a dog is corrected for doing something wrong RIGHT THEN — “If, I, the Dog do this, this bad thing happens.” Dogs do understand cause and effect at that level very well. If you’re very very very angry with your dog, go take a walk yourself until you calm down.

    Crates should never be used for correction or punishment. If you put your dog in its crate because you need a break (totally cool), make sure the dog thinks it’s being good by going into the crate.
  4. Two dogs are easier than one. Dogs are pack animals and they need company.
  5. Housebreaking is not difficult. It’s more difficult for some breeds than others, but I’ve usually been able to housebreak a dog in a day just by consistently taking it outside several times. I’ve taught most of my dogs to pee on command. Pooping is really up to them, though. If you have a multiple dog household, they will teach each other where to go and they will often go as a pack. When I had five dogs, it was hilarious to take them out on a rainy night to pee. They would form a circle, each dog facing outward, and pee in unison. (Truffle, Molly, Kelly, Lupo and Ariel)
  6. Crate training is good. Using a crate is not putting your dog in prison. It’s giving them a den of their own in which they feel safe. Crates are also VERY useful for housebreaking because most dogs (past the early puppy stage where anything can happen) will not poop or pee in their den.
  7. Get your dog from a shelter or foster. The ONLY bad experience I had with a dog I owned was with a yellow lab I bought at pet store. Daisy — known as Big Puppy — was overbred. When she was two years old, she killed Cheyennie T. Wolf who had, until that horrible nightmarish moment, had been Big Puppy’s mother. Big Puppy knocked out Cheyennie’s canine teeth and then ripped open her neck. The emergency vet wasn’t able to save my husky. A week or so later, Big Puppy went for Lily T. Wolf in the same way.

    One of the saddest days in my life was the day I had to take my beautiful dog to the vet to be put to sleep because she was a murderous bitch, literally. The vet and I both cried as we killed that beautiful young murderous creature, then the vet asked where I got my dog. I told him and he said, “I see it a lot in purebred dogs. Her father could have been her brother and her mother could have been her sister. We never know. I wish they’d shut down pet stores. It’s the only way to stop puppy mills.” He was ferocious, passionate on this point. As it happens, the pet store where I got Big Puppy was shut down the next year.
  8. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to train a dog. It mostly takes patience, consistency, frequency and a sense of humor. It helps a lot if you’re willing to develop a friendship with your dog, get to know it and don’t feel you need to dominate it into cowering submission. Dogs and humans have worked together for eons in a very successful trans-species partnership. Your dog knows this as well as you do.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/rdp-friday-skill/

Holidays… Just Say No

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We are in “the holiday season.” It’s the one thing that wrecks winter. To make things worse, it comes earlier and earlier every year. I mostly just hold on until January second and savor the islands of non-holiday that pop up from time to time during this strange nightmare.

What’s wrong with it? Mainly, it’s just too long. Even the local thrift store closed its doors two weeks ago to put out the Christmas stuff. Mid-October? Christmas starts with Halloween which is, itself, now a pretty big “holiday.”

Here’s how I think it should be.

Halloween should return to being ONE night when 20 somethings have parties and kids go trick-or-treating. The next day everything goes back to normal. The 20 somethings have hangovers, and the kids have bellyaches.

Then, all is quiet until a few days before Thanksgiving when mom deliberates whether to buy a frozen or fresh turkey or who wants turkey anyway? Let’s have ham. Or something. That lasts for a weekend and by Sunday everyone is thoroughly sick of each other and turkey.

Then the biggie rolls around, but not until around December 12 or so. “Should we get a tree?” pops into the conversation. A tree is procured, decorations are dragged out, the tree is decorated, presents are bought and everything moves toward the moment in which visions of sugar-plums dance around in the kids’ heads.

Yesterday a Plow & Hearth catalog arrived in my mailbox. It makes an impossible promise — “225 NEW ways to celebrate” (not likely). These “ways” are “things,” stuff that made it through Trump’s tariffs. All this stuff is available to all of us to make our holidays great again. I don’t really KNOW how a battery operated candle in a jar with a cardinal painted on the front is going to transform anything permanently.

Is happiness measured in stuff? I mean really? I got both miserable and happy yesterday and there was no “stuff” involved. I queried an agent I really wanted to represent my book. She answered positively, asking for the first fifty pages of The Schneeballs (ha ha) go to America. I sent it. Yay!

I got an email yesterday declining the manuscript. THAT’s when I saw I’d spelled her name wrong.

 

Nothing like being relentlessly confronted with one’s flaws.

What was there to do (besides self-loathing) but head out with Bear into the big open. We walked, enjoyed the remaining snow, the light, the snowy mountains and were met by three mule deer does who’d been foraging on some half-frozen alfalfa in a fallow field.

Thanks nature for making it all better. ❤

I came home and pondered where else to send the Schneebelis and decided to send it to a publisher who specializes in books about Mennonites and Amish, Swiss family history, etc. No word yet. I’m, meanwhile, formatting the book to self-publish it. It’s something to do that could lead to a pretty book, anyway. And really how important is it? It isn’t.

As for me, I don’t know what my holidays will bring. I’m pretty broke after the expenses of the summer, but I’ll be taking a turkey to the food bank. I have the feeling that my holidays are going to be me, the dogs, country roads, maybe a tea party, and, god-willing snow without -20 temps. Maybe even the opportunity to X-country ski. I plan to celebrate Thanksgiving at the Sand Dunes. ❤

Thanks for reading my Scroogeish rant.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/07/rdp-wednesday-holiday/

Mom’s Illogical Demands

“We spent all that money on raincoats for you two! You didn’t even take them to school!”

“We didn’t know it was going to rain.” Wasn’t that HER job, to say, “Take your rain coats it looks like rain”?

“Get in here. You’re drenched. Get in the tub.”

“Me first,” says your brother, knowing there are cartoons.

OK now that made sense. Come home from school with your little brother, you’re both soaked from the rain storm and she tells you to get in the bathtub.

“Why?” you ask.

“You’ll catch your death. NOW!!!!”

You both run to your rooms. You wonder what you’re supposed to do while your brother is in the tub avoiding death.

“Get out of your wet clothes!!” yells your mom. “Throw them down the basement stairs!”

You take off your school clothes and run through the house in your underwear, open the basement door and throw your dress, slip, and socks down the basement stairs. Now you’re more or less naked in wet panties. This is madness.

“Billy! Get out of the tub, dry off good! It’s your sister’s turn!”

You hear the water begin its journey down down the drain.

“Dry off good! Maureen, get in there.”

Dry off and then get wet. You’re cold now, but you were fine before. Shivering, you go into the bathroom, turn on the water and get into the tub. “Can I have bubblebath?” you yell.

“I don’t care!” she yells back. “Just get into that tub.”

Your brother passes by the bathroom door in his pajamas. His red-blond hair spikey from being dried with the towel. He makes a face at you as he goes by.

“Stop looking at me!” you yell.

After a while your mother yells again, “Get out of there and get dried off. I need you to set the table.”

Life is an unsupportable burden. First you’re in trouble for getting wet in the rain you couldn’t predict or prevent. Then you’re yelled at for not getting into the bathtub already peopled by your brother. Then you’re yelled at for being IN the bathtub. You heave a sigh reflecting deep world-weariness as you let the water out of the tub. You drag your legs over the side, take your leaden towel from the rack and endure the effort of drying off your skin.

“I’m coming,” you yell back.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/27/rdp-saturday-drench/

Lost in Time

Long, long ago in a nearby land lived a lot of men and women who knew how to use a slide rule. It was a wonderful thing that could help these men and women do very complex mathematics that now we need computers to do. With the use of these things, humans invented computers and put people into space.

There were always a bunch of these around my house, (there still are) because my dad was a mathematician. Sometimes my dad attempted to teach me to use one, but those moments never went well. Using a slide rule was second nature to my dad and he wasn’t the most patient person in the world. I don’t think he ever thought about how long it it had taken him to learn. Still, he had one in high school as did all the smart kids in my classes. I was in dumb kids math.

Along with the slide rule were books of tables. I tossed dozens of these in the great purge of 2017 because they literally have no meaning at all to anyone anymore.

I still look at slide rules in wonderment just like my dad would probably look at my cell phone if he suddenly appeared in my living room. The difference is, he would soon be able to work the cell phone. I’ll never be able to use his slide rules.

BUT…a couple of years ago I participated in my second ever demonstration (my first was Earth Day, 1970, the first one ❤ ). It was the March for Science. I made a poster to honor my dad who was a scientist in Colorado Springs (where I marched).

March for Science Poster

It was a chilly day and I was already suffering from osteoarthritis in my left hip though at that point I just knew I couldn’t walk very well, and I hurt, I didn’t know why. It took science to determine what was wrong, mathematicians to devise the most accurate way to measure the repairs I would need, and a scientist to repair me.

The March for Science in Colorado Springs was a wonderful experience. It was a small march, mostly families and earnest nerds like this man holding a sign that my dad could have read.

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In case you’re curious about slide rules, I found some videos on Youtube. This video is even more obscure in its explanation and instruction than was my dad. My dad’s explanation was directed toward showing me how to use a slide rule to get answers to math problems. It probably would have worked on a person who didn’t hyperventilate as soon as numbers were put in front of her.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/rdp-friday-slide/

Wappen

Long long ago in a faraway land (that I’ve visited and love) lived a minor knight in the service of the Habsburgs who lived not far away. The Habsburgs were not yet that jaw-jutting mega-ruling family they became, but a little conclave of Austrian immigrants who had a castle (see photo above) on a hill looking over the Reuss river valley in what is now the Canton of Aare. In a few hundred years, they’d be chased out of Switzerland, but for now they were busy protecting their interests.

The castle-fortress belonging to the (very minor) knight, Heinrich von Lunkhofen, was on a hillside, somewhat south and east from the Habsburg’s headquarters. It was a tower with a few attached buildings and a courtyard. Its main jobs were to house the minor knight’s family, provide protection to anyone who needed it in times of attack, and protect the Habsburg’s interests. Heinrich’s brother, Hugo, had a similar castle between the Habsburg’s fortress and Heinrich’s. Near the town named for the family, Unter-Lunkhofen, are ruins of Hugo’s castle-fortress, but nothing remains of Heinrich’s.

Of course, the minor knight’s family had a flag which was carried into the crusades (presumably) and whenever there was a battle locally (it was the feudal period, key word, FEUD), and a kind of address marker for mail delivery (You made that up, Martha). Years and years later, a tiny bit of Heinrich’s DNA made it’s way to Monte Vista, Colorado.

So, without further ado (what’s ado?) here’s my family’s flag (crest). It is also the “wappen” for the village of Zwillikon in the area of Affoltern am Albis.

Lunkhofen Wappen

 

My family has another crest, too, for the other side, the Schneebelis. Their name started out as “Schnew” (snow) and then “Snewli” and then (no one knows why) Schneebeli (little snowballs). German evolved just like English so spellings changed and stuff like that, but “beli”? It’s a red background with three snowballs on it. There’s a lot of dispute (well a “lot” is relative…) over why the Lunkhofen name vanished and the family became Schneebeli. My theory is that it got very inconvenient at a certain point to be connected to the Habsburgs.

My other theory is that there is a genetic predisposition to love snow.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/rdp-tuesday-flag/

Bearendipitous

One of the best moments of serendipity in my life (and there have been several) was that I happened to look on Facebook the very day this dog was brought into the local shelter, and, without hesitating, I contacted the shelter to meet the dog. She looked at me with my  Siberian husky Lily’s blue eyes. I’d had to put Lily down only a few months before and I knew another dog would be coming into my life. When I saw this puppy, I knew I’d found my dog. I still had doubts, but…

At the shelter, I met one of the coolest young people I know. More serendipity. Brandi knew that I was Bear’s owner – though Bear was then called Silver, a good name, too — and though others came to see Bear, Brandi gave them no encouragement. “I knew she was your dog as soon as I met you,” she told me later.

 

Bear appeared to be a husky/Pyrenees mix. I didn’t know anything about livestock guardian dogs except I’d seen them working. I knew huskies were higher energy than I could deal with at that time. It turned out that Bear is an Akbash dog, a livestock guardian breed from Turkey. Livestock guardian dogs, in general, are calm, pretty low energy (they’re bred to keep sheep from going crazy which, if you know anything about sheep, is not that easy), independent, intelligent and they bond tightly to whatever they’re supposed to bond to — sheep, goats or me.

I like this dog a LOT. She’s turned out to be a good friend (for a dog). She has some odd behaviors — she hugs people, for one. She sits on her haunches and wraps her arms around people who come to my house. It’s her way to say hello rather than jumping on them. She’s pretty forceful in this demonstration of affection. She really wants my friends to feel welcome but I think sometimes they feel frightened because she’s so large. She’s very gentle and slow moving with small kids and kitties! She’s especially attentive and loving to my friend’s developmentally disabled son.

She’s a lap dog — but that’s normal behavior for her breed, too, to sit or lie on the creatures they care for. She’s openly affectionate — I’m used to Siberian Huskies who are very independent dogs, somewhat cat-like in their show of affection. For a Siberian Husky, showing love is going “hunting” with you for several hours. So having a dog who seeks and gives affection has been different. Often, on a walk, Bear will stop gathering her messages and tracking animals, and snuggle up beside me so I can put my hand on her back as we walk along. She loves this and I do, too.

Before getting Bear, I’d already had, probably, 20 dogs, but never a dog like this. ❤

 

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Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/16/rdp-tuesday-serendipity/

The Dark Side of the Bright Side

My dogs got new meds. These meds gave them both seriously upset tummies and, this, morning a seriously upset human companion. Consequently, the Afghan rug in the studio is damp and the rugs from the kitchen floor are in the washer.

Oh well. At least they didn’t wake me up to go out, right? 😦

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/rdp-friday-damp/

The Schnee(belis) of Kilimanjaro

I got “The Schneebelis Go to America” back yesterday from my editor, Beth Bruno. I must be getting a little better because she didn’t send a truck-load of proofing corrections!

It’s funny how we are. I don’t know if I’m confident in my writing or not, but I’m not confident in my proofreading, so in her comments — email and comment tracking on my manuscript — that’s what I looked for. I fixed some sentences that didn’t make sense to her (that thing of writing for people inside your mind again…) and heard her remarks about a shift in pacing that, ultimately, hadn’t bothered her and even made sense.

I didn’t see the overall remarks about my writing and the story. The good stuff. I think this is because — in my mind — the book is a project I’m refining and trying to get right. It’s not finished.

To my editor, the manuscript came through as a finished story. I woke up this morning understanding what ELSE she’d said and I am very happy.

She asked what my plans are for the book. I told her I planned to give it a shot at conventional publication, and I was grateful for any advice she had. She had some advice, “I just think with the level of sophistication and specialty of your writing, you’d be best served by someone with solid experience in publishing.” Something I never thought of.

This time last year I picked up the manuscript again, my Aunt Dickie’s words calling out to me from a letter I have taped to the wall in my studio, “Please continue writing the story of my mother’s family.” I didn’t like this book at the time. It was hard going and the characters didn’t speak to me, but I loved my Aunt Dickie and that she loved my novels. I had hoped at that moment last fall to finish before Christmas last year so I could, at least, send her a manuscript to read. I was in a lot of pain from my hip at the time, and writing has always been, for me, a good ladder out of a hole. My Aunt Dickie was 93, and that number has a very clear meaning even though she was still independent and fit, walking a mile a day with her dog, driving herself to church and fully involved in life. She died last November, pretty suddenly, from a very aggressive cancer. All I can do is dedicate the book to her — which I have done/will do.

All of this brought home the message of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” We’re never ready to write the story but write it anyway.

He had never written any of that because, at first, he never wanted to hurt any one and then it seemed as though there was enough to write without it. But he had always thought that he would write it finally. There was so much to write. He had seen the world change; not just the events; although he had seen many of them and had watched the people, but he had seen the subtler change and he could remember how the people were at different times. He had been in it and he had watched it and it was his duty to write of it; but now he never would. Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

So, I will take another break from my blog to work on the novel some more and figure out how my writing is “sophisticated.”

Addendum: I “Googled” “sophisticated writing” and what it means is that the writer does some stuff like avoids the passive voice, uses a varied vocabulary, allows the characters to carry the story. That’s cool. I’m honored if that’s the case. I worked hard for that, and I owe a lot to Truman Capote.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/rdp-friday-truck/