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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Yes, We ARE "Those People!" or For Love of Dog

Our neighbor, Mark, brought over a Christmas gift for us (yummy peppermint bark--thanks, Marchant family!) Then Charlie and Puddin' brought some chocolate chip cookies that Lynne had made! (We have such good neighbors.)

Now that they've moved into a bigger house, Mark and Liz's kids are holding them to their promise of getting a dog and Muggle is just the right size. Talking of Muggle naturally leads to talk of agility. Which led to talk of the hilarious movie, Best in Show. If you aren't familiar with it, it's a parody of the intensely, freakishly dog-obsessed folks who frequent the dog show circuit. Mark asked if there are similar characters in agility.

"Oh, yeah! But not us. I mean, we don't have any kids, so we spoil the animals, but we know they're pets," I told him. Then felt the need to qualify. "Well, I mean, sort of. We aren't as obsessive as the Best in Show folks, but maybe we over do it a bit with our babies."

Muggle with his Christmas "loot."

Then I had to go in to check on homemade chicken jerky I was making for Muggle in the dehydrator.

This morning, looking at the wonderful pile of gifts under the tree, it struck me. Yes, we ARE "those people" from Best in Show! I didn't want to be one of "those" dog-obsessed, crazy people whose life center's around their dog. That's almost as sad as people whose life center's around their human children! Almost. Human kids grow up, become independent, and move on. Our dogs are dependent on us for their whole lives.

The evidence of our (my) obsession with my dog is overwhelming and it's been right in front of my face the whole time. I just didn't want to see it:

  • Drawers full of "Muggle" and agility clothing.
  • A whole "travel bag" just for roadtrips with Muggle (crate, toys, food and water dishes, treats, blanket, pillow, 2 leashes, bandana)
  • The agili-tree.
The Agili-tree: decorated with Muggle's agility ribbons.

  • Albums and albums of Muggle on Facebook.
  • My gifts from Matt: solar panel for the car to run the seat-heater at those cold, outdoor agility trials, and a Muggle photo collage.
  • Making homemade treats for Muggle.
  • More gifts for Muggle under the tree than anyone else!

My Christmas gift from Matt: an Agility-photo Collage

Guess I have to face the facts. We ARE those people. And it's not a bad thing at all. Animals are and should be treated as part of the family. We love them, take care of them, and while we may have other interests and friends outside of them, to them, we are everything! I can't think of a better, more admirable or redeeming quality in a person than for them to be an animal lover.

From our house to yours, and from our furry, 4-legged kids to yours, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Frohe Weihnachten, and a happy, healthy New Year filled with much barking, meowing, and many sloppy, wet kisses!

Lynne, Matt, Muggle, Spooky, and Minerva

Minerva and Spooky

Me and Matt in DC

Saturday, December 15, 2012

'Tis the Season: A bit of Christmas past

We have some family friends who are visiting Germany right now. Their blog posts about the small towns and Christmas markets they've visited around Stuttgart and in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France have brought back wonderful memories of our Christmases in Germany. The excitement and goodwill of the season thrive in the festive markets and even a curmudgeon like me can't help but feel the joy!

With fond memories of Christmas past, here's a repost from a blog of our first Christmas in Germany.

December 2005

Glűhwein, Socks, Knives, Axes and Gerbils – Christmas in Germany
At the Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt
Frohe Weihnachten, Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, Happy Hannakuh and more from Wendlingen, Germany! 

The most obvious and telling signs of the Christmas season in Germany are the Weihnachtsmarkts–Christmas Markets (sometimes called ChristKindl Markts)–that every town, large and small holds in the weeks before Christmas. Some of these are small, weekend long affairs in the town square, with a few booths selling ornaments, candles, sweaters, toys, and of course, food and beverages. The preferred beverage of the season is Glűhwein: hot, spiced wine, either red or white. It might be the heating that does it, or the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and orange peel to super-sweet wine that does it, but whatever it is, this is POTENT STUFF! But oh, so wonderfully warm and aromatic on a cold night outdoors wandering through the Christmas villages of booths decorated with everything from Santa and his reindeer to the nativity.

Skating at the Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt
The the BIG Weihnachtsmarkts last from November 24 or 25 through Christmas. These spread through all of the squares, parks, and marketplaces in town and include everything from ice skating rinks and “restaurant” booths with sit-down table service, to live music and sleigh rides! 
But the really spectacular, and truly unique markets are the medieval-themed villages.  Esslingen, a medieval, walled town known for its vineyards, is the perfect setting for a medieval Weihnachtsfest–the old town was spared bombing during WWII and portions of its original wall still surround parts of town. Some of the buildings date back to the 13th century. a true medieval town.
The Esslingen Weihnachtsmarkt

The medieval theme brings out all the “Goths” in Baden-Wurttemburg and we were never sure if the people walking around with dyed black hair, black nail polish and lipstick, black flowing robes, and chains were part of the entertainment, or visitors. The vendors knew their crowd and about ½ the booths were selling amulets, celtic-designed jewelry, dragon and gargoyle items, and incense.  Lots and lots of incense. 
Medieval musicians at the Esslingen Christmas Market

Jugglers, musicians, and acrobats roam the crowd and periodically perform on stage, in between church choirs and youth singing groups. There are people dressed up as knights, pages, lords, and ladies, and vendors selling period clothing for all of them.  We could have bought some wonderful robes, poofy-sleeved “pirate shirts,” and leather shoes with pointy toes that curled up at the end (they even offered to specially make a pair for Matt’s size 15s!) 

 Not only were there people in period costume, but the vendors were craftspeople plying their trade, as well as their wares: candlemakers, leather workers making hats, gloves, slippers, and those pointy-elf shoes, women spinning wool into yard and then making sweaters from it, and a blacksmith forging corkscrews, axes, and knives. And socks.  There were lots of booths selling wool socks. Maybe the German’s know something we don’t about the coming winter? I felt this perhaps indicated severe weather to come, like the red stripe on woolly caterpillars, so I bought some. 

If you wanted to test out the wares before buying, the game booth next to the blacksmith–knife and ax tossing--gave you the chance. And nearby, you could test out a freshly-fletched arrow (and NOT the suction cup kind of arrows, either) at a booth where a lemon hung from rafters by a string. Stick the arrow in the lemon and win a prize! Right across from that was a food vendor with a whole pig roasting on a spit... hmmm... makes you wonder, doesn’t  it? Surrounding all of the games involving sharp and pointy objects were booths selling Glűhwein, eggnog, Christmas punch, beer, and wine! We're pretty sure there's no ATF in Germany!

Test your aim at the bow shooting booth!

Maybe someone had good aim with the bow and arrow?
There were rides for the kids, too.  Like the hand-powered ferris wheel. About 5 m high, the wooden wheel had “troughs” for the kids and two young guys worked handles to turn it, sort of like contestants on “The Price is Right” spin the big wheel to get into the showcase. Other games included throwing a lead ball at an egg sitting on top of a log and trying to smash it, trying to land a 1 Euro coin into the center circle drawn at the bottom of a barrel  filled with water (about .5 m deep), and our favorite – Maus Rondell!

Yes, you guessed the correct English translation.  Mouse Roulette.  A misnomer since they used a gerbil. How can you resist a game called Maus Roulette, especially when the playing area had clear indications of a live mouse being involved? The round table, divided into 12 “pie slices” that each had a small cardboard “mouse house” at the end, and evidence that some of these houses had been “inhabited” at least briefly. The gerbil was released into the center of the table and we all waited eagerly to see which house he’d run into. After many “here mousey-mousy-mousy’s,” lots of kissy noises to lure the gerbil in, and three bolts into houses with no coins on them, the gerbil finally ran into Matt’s house and he won...a small stuffed mouse. I was really hoping for the gerbil. Probably for the best since Spooky is gnawing away at the prize as I write this.
Maus Rondell

After all that fun, we needed some much deserved glűhwein and a wurst, then we headed back home to put up our Christmas tree!

Esslingen Christmas Market

Matt setting up the tree at our house in Wendlingen

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Giving

Last year I promoted selecting charities that are meaningful to those on your Christmas gift (the humane society for the animal lover, American Heart Association for someone who has or has lost someone to heart disease, etc) and making donations to those charities in the name of your gift recipient:

Random Thoughts by Lynne Hinkey: Christmas shopping?

That's what Matt and I have been doing for the past few years and will continue to do this year. Very few of those on our gift lists really need any store bought items or more clutter for their households but they all have causes near and dear to their hearts. We'll contribute to those causes on their behalf. I hope you'll all consider doing the same.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Just in Time for Christmas: Marina Melee Book Signings!

Being an author requires some serious juggling skill and I often feel like I'm failing miserably at keeping all the balls in the air: continuing to market and promote Marina Melee, querying for Ye Gods! (the novel formerly known as Chupacabra), writing The Old Putters (working title), and outlining Un-familiar (the sequel to Ye Gods!)

Just when I start making progress on any one of these, I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about the others. I haven't been promoting Marina Melee the way I should  because I'm researching agents and sending queries for Ye Gods! I'm not querying for Ye Gods! enough because I'm writing Old Putters (and trying to get a short story from Old Putters published). I'm not writing as much as I should on Old Putters because I've started a new marketing push on Marina Melee for Christmas. 


Just when I'm about to throw an all-out hissy fit and give up because I obviously have no talent or ability in writing, marketing, promoting, publishing or anything related to being an author, I get a surprising little boost. About five or six months ago, the encouragement came in the form of encouragement from Hanna, who LOVED Chupacabra when I was ready to give up and rewrite the whole thing. A few weeks ago, the boost came from my editor, Rebecca Bender, who told me not to give up or change the story, and there is an agent out there who will love it, want it, and find a publisher-home for it, and who thinks the new title, Ye Gods!, is better.

The latest bit of encouragement comes from two sources: The Center for Women and West Marine. The Charleston Center for Women holds an Annual Lowcountry Women Authors Book Signing in time for Christmas shopping. I'll be signing copies of Marina Melee. It's on Sunday, December 9th at the Citadel's Holliday Alumni House at 69 Hagood Ave, Charleston.

I made up some of my own fliers to post at marinas and boating supply stores around Charleston. When I stopped by West Marine in West Ashley, the manager, Rob, asked if I'd like to do a book signing there, too! So, I have a signing on Saturday, December 8th (10:00a.m.-2:00 p.m.) at West Marine, too!

West Marine, Savannah Hwy, West Ashley
Charleston, SC

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Can you believe those damn bleeding heart liberal democrats—communists, socialists, and welfare recipients, the lot of them--won so big in this election? Always taking all our money, taxing us unfairly, then spending our hard-earned dollars on lazy, no-good welfare recipients! It's outrageous.

Are any of these recipients of our good-will and tax money appreciative? Hell no. And I for one don't want my tax dollars going to someone who is too lazy to earn their own money. Do you want to know what's wrong with our country? All you have to do is a little bit of math.

Just look at these numbers: In 2005 (most recent numbers available), out of the total taxes paid to the federal government, for each $1.00 we pay, only $0.91 comes back to us in our home states or territories. Those other $0.09? Gone: off to Washington, DC or to overseas military bases, or, sometimes, to help some foreign country that couldn't help itself, that expects us to bail them out.

Some people have decided that it's better to keep their tax dollars right at home, in their own states, and use the money to benefit themselves. "We don't need no stinkin' federal government taxing us then redistributing our wealth! SECEDE, I say! SECEDE!"

The secessionists don't want their hard-earned money going to some place that hasn't paid their fair share into the system. That's the equivalent of welfare and good, small-government, capitalist Republicans don't abide by that.

Well, I'm all for those states doing the fiscally responsible thing and seceding from the Union. Their secession can benefit quite a few states, especially those who receive back less than they pay into the system.

Is it fair that those poor residents of New York only receive back $0.24 of every dollar they pay to Uncle Sam while South Carolinians get back $1.31 for every $1.00 they pay? Is it fair that the red states, those who voted Republican, get back, on average, $1.38 for every $1 they pay—a 'welfare benefit' of $0.38 per dollar—paid for the most part by blue states? Is it fair that for every tax dollar those damn Yankee, liberal, democrat states in the northeast pay, the southeastern states, those that want the Federal government to stay out of their business, receive an average of $1.69, while the Yankees only get back an average of $0.74? 
This map shows how states fare on their tax dollars. Those in red receive more than a dollar back for every tax dollar they send the federal government. Those in blue receive less than a dollar. Funny how the states most opposed to taxes and big government, those who vote "red" (GOP) are the ones benefitting the most from the "socialist" redistribution of wealth, isn't it?
Hell no, it's not fair!  If the recipients of federal government largess don't appreciate it, continue to deprecate our great country and the duly and fairly elected President, if they don’t like our generosity, screw them. Let's let them secede!

There are a number of states that agree that they should be allowed to secede (mostly ones with poor public education so their citizens are bad at math.) These states are sick of the "socialism" and want to secede from the Union.

Fifteen states have filed petitions to secede since the election last week. With few exceptions, I think we should not only allow them to secede, but thank them for doing so! Fiscally, letting these states go would be the responsible thing to do. It will be to the country's financial benefit. How?

Those states that stay in the Union and grant secession to the petitioners will get to keep their hard earned dollars. Right now, the reason most true-blue states get back less from their tax dollars than they pay into the system is because it's being redistributed to the very states that want to secede (see what I mean about them being bad at math?) Cut loose the states that want to secede, and the remaining states get a windfall profit.

We can only hope the petitioners to secede don't actually ever learn their numbers and renege on their effort to leave the country and go it alone. If they do, Louisiana will figure out that they'll lose the extra $0.78 they get back for each dollar paid in taxes (they get $1.78 back to their state for every $1.00 they pay in Federal taxes)—money that those  bleeding heart liberals in the blue, northeast states will be able to keep! True, Louisiana might struggle a bit as an independent country, but let's five them a well-deserve a round of applause for wanting to practice what they preach. Given their history of cronyism and backroom politics, I'd expect they'd become a third-world country in very short order.
Alabamans, who now get back $1.66 for every $1 paid, will have to do some belt-tightening, but it works out well for the states that are currently supporting them. Kentuckians can kiss good-bye their $1.51 for every $1.00 paid in Federal taxes, freeing up those 51¢ for the states who are now bearing the burden of Kentucky's vehement opposition to welfare and socialism. North Dakota (gets back $1.68 for every $1.00 paid) and Montana ($1.47/$1.00) also complain about socialism and welfare and would like to secede, thereby saving the states that remain in the Union a big chunk of money once they no longer have to support those welfare-recipient states.

Letting Mississippi go is the real money-maker and budget-balancer for the rest of the country: for every $1.00 they pay in taxes, they get $2.02 back! Considering they're almost always dead last in education and healthcare rankings, it makes you wonder what their state government is doing with that money, doesn't it? But hey, "states' rights"--you go, Mississippi.

North Carolina will lose out on their net gain of $.08 per dollar paid ($1.08 back), Indiana will lose 5¢ that they get  back in addition to each $1.00 they pay, and Georgia will lose out on the $1.01 back per dollar paid in federal taxes--not too bad of a drain on Federal tax-payers, but welfare nonetheless, and every penny returned to the coffers of the states whose generosity is so little appreciated is a good thing. So, to these states, I say, "B-bye!"

Florida and Texas might be about okay, once they raise taxes. They get back $0.97 and 0.94 for every dollar they pay, respectively. Maybe they'll continue to help out some of their southern secessionist neighbors? No. Probably not. They don't believe in "socialism."

I just have to wonder, though: If these states are so hell-bent on living according to their principals, of opposing big government assistance and social-welfare programs, why do they accept the welfare from the rest of the country to begin with? Why don't they just give back the money that isn't rightfully theirs?
To see which states are the biggest drain on our taxes, and which are carrying the greatest share of the load, go to: 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Where are you now, Mary Richards? or Sitcoms, Role Models, and the Election

I voted today. We'll be returning from a visit to DC on the 6th and didn't want to risk getting in after the polls closed. Prior to voting, I spent a lot of time looking over the candidates websites and voting records. The effort got me reminiscing about television sitcoms that helped my generation define ourselves. Yes, the subjects of sitcoms and the election are related. How? I'm glad you asked.

I'm at the tail end of the baby-boom generation, so I wasn't among those women who broke down walls. I reaped the benefits of their fight for equality and them demonstrating that women were equally competent (if not more) than men in the workplace. By the time I hit my teens, girls knew we could be anything we wanted to be. Women were in the military, and the first female cadets had entered the military academies. Women were running businesses, representing us in Congress, and challenging (and beating) men in sports (shout out to Billy Jean King!)

At that same time, sitcoms moved women from the kitchen (in a dress wearing heels and pearls, a la June Cleaver) to the newsroom with Mary Richards in the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Sure, Mary had been Rob Petry's wife on the Dick Van Dyke show in the 60s, but by the 70s, she'd moved on to the "big city" (Minneapolis) to "make it on her own." She was a single woman in her 30s with a career.She wasn't widowed or divorced or seeking a man to support her.

Mary Richards was what the women before me had worked so hard for, and had achieved. She was part of my generation's world view: women go to college, have careers, move away from home to pursue their own interests. They meet life on their terms and conquer the world without a man. Once a woman is a whole person in her own right, well, then, if she meets the right person, she can have a relationship, spouse, and family too. But it isn't a prerequisite of happiness.

We also had Maude, Edith Bunker's outspoken, middle-aged, politically liberal cousin to show us what women are capable of. Even our 1950s girls, Laverne and Shirley, were independent, sharing an apartment, working in Schottz's brewery, and always scheming ways to get rich.

In the 80s, we had Murphy Brown, a sharp-witted, sarcastic investigative journalist who was also a recovering alcoholic. Candace Bergen's Murphy Brown gave us an older, more world-wise and world-weary role model than the ever-perky Mary Richards. She was a 40-something woman who had made it in a man's world. She showed us that it could be done. The show's political satire maybe cut too close to home for some, and when Murphy decided to become a single-mom after becoming pregnant by her ex-husband, Dan Quayle decried the country's falling morals all because of Murphy's choice to raise a child alone. Sadly, Republican's are still blaming single moms for the country's problems. 

I don't know what happened while I was off pursuing my own education and career, but when I finally had a few minutes to watch TV, I found women's role models had devolved. Instead of women struggling with work-homelife balance, fighting for equal opportunities, or continuing the fight for equal pay, and instead of strong women determined to live life on their own terms first, we had Ally McBeal, a twenty-something, airhead who could NEVER have passed a bar exam anywhere, ever. Somehow she became a lawyer who obsessively fantasized about meeting Prince Charming and having a baby. Her strategy to accomplish that? Wear the shortest skirts she could get away with on prime time television and act ditzy. 

The de-evolution didn't stop there and we can only hope that we're at the very bottom of this sad trajectory for women in television. Now we have reality TV where women fight to find a husband in 10-easy episodes on The Bachelor, where Snooki struts her illiterate brand of stupidity and slutiness on the Jersey Shore, and where Teen Moms get their own show. We're back to being objectified and shown as mere "arm-candy" and gold-diggers. These women's and girl's lives are defined by having a man, not by having a brain or an identity or even a personality. They don't want to accomplish anything by themselves or for themselves. They're just there to please a man; any man will do.

With shows like this, is it any wonder that teens and women in their 20s and 30s don't have a clue why women of my age and older are so upset with the current political climate? All those hard-won gains at becoming people, rather than just some man's posession, are trickling away. That trickle will become a torrent if the GOP wins the presidency or control of either the House or Senate in the upcoming election.

"Feminist" isn't a dirty word and it isn't a euphemism for lesbian. The Feminist movement is the reason young women today can go to a bar with their friends and not be branded sluts (but stick with the GOP and you'll lose that right, just ask Rush Limbaugh). The Women's Right's movement is the reason we can be more than just secretaries--we can be scientists, engineers, business owners,astronauts, congresswomen, or even President because women who are 10, 15, 20 years older-than me--and more, back to the suffragettes of the early 1900s--fought for us to have those abilities.

We're in danger of losing so many rights, and much more. We're in danger of losing self-respect, self-determination, dignity, and the right to say NO. Sitcoms may appear to be a bit of fluff given the serious problems our country faces. But right now, they seem to be a harbinger that we're heading in a very wrong, very dangerous direction. Imagine a world where Snooki is considered a woman's role model. Imagine a that we could have in just a few weeks....where you can't say NO; where rape is "just another form of conception (1)" and it must be "God's will (2)," and if it's "legitimate rape" (3) (I guess that's the kind these men thing some women "deserve" or "ask for"because "some girls rape easily. (4)" [Just an aside to fathers and mothers who might be ill-advisedly considering voting Republican this year, notice, they don't even stop at adults, this moron from Wisconsin is talking about raping girls. Does he have experience with that? Sure sounds like it. Do you really want who condones raping girls because it's easy representing you in Congress?!?]

This election is hugely important for all women, and for our daughters, granddaughters, and nieces The voting booth booth is the one place where even those women who have been dominated, subjugated, bullied, belittled, or just made to feel less-than-equal by men in their lives can exert their equality and their independence. (I know it happens 'cause I've been there--supporting his side to win favor. It doesn't help, just makes him push for more!) Don't be intimidated or threatened. Don't let this election be the one future generations of females look at and say, "that's when we became less than human."

Go watch a few episodes of Mary Tyler Moore, Murphy Brown, Maude, or even Laverne and Shirley, and then go vote. VOTE to keep our ability to choose our own lives, whether that is as a housewife, a mother, a career woman, or all of these. Our lives should be our choice, not something predetermined by men. VOTE!

(1) Paul Ryan, GOP vice-presidential candidate, August 24, 2012
(2) Richard Mourdock, Indiana Tea Party senate candidate, October 24, 2012
(3) Todd Akin, Republican congressman and current senate candidate from Missouri, August 19, 2012
(4) Roger Rivard, Wisconsin GOP state senator, October 10, 2012





Sunday, October 14, 2012

Just Braggin' on My Dog

Let me apologize in advance to all you readers who thought you had the cutest, coolest, best dog in the world...I can't let you go on holding that delusion any longer because the fact of the matter is, you don't. I do.
Muggle (Photo by Matt Drobnik)
Yes. Look upon my doggy's divine countenance and weep, for no matter how adorably, loveable, cuddly ALL dogs are (I really have never met one that wasn't cute), Muggle is the awesome-est and cutest!

Many of you may know Muggle's story, but if you don't, you can go to his website, The Muggle Chronicles, and read about his--and our--amazing journey from discarded, to rescued, to agility dog.

Some of the things that make Muggle one-of-a-kind:

1.  He doesn't run to greet us at the door. When we come home, he maintains his dignity (and his spot on the sofa) and gives us a Joey Tribbiani nod of the head: "how you doin,'" and patiently waits for us to come over and pet him. He has a bit of Eey-ore in him about the whole enthusiasm thing. Most dogs are excited to be invited onto the sofa, chair, bed, car...not Muggle. He'll slowly inch his way to the seat, look up through his eyebrows and sigh, then slowly lug himself up alongside you. "If I have to...."

"How you doin'?"
2.  He's neat and orderly. I'm not, so I figure this is a good thing. Muggle has upstairs toys and downstairs toys and gets absolutely neurotic if they're out of place. He'll pace and fret over his toys, poking his nose into the basket and under furniture until he's certain something is missing, then he'll rescue it and return it to its rightful place.

Looking intense through the tire (Photo by Matt Drobnik)
3.  He talks to us. If you've ever seen Muggle run agility, you know he's a talker. He grunts and growls, and snarls and snarks the whole way through the course. Today, I found out that could be me. When I give him clear directions, he gets quieter. I did see something similar when Matt ran him and did some incorrect handler motion--Muggle would turn around and give him what-for before doing what he was supposed to do. But, he'd still do the right thing. That could explain how we've gotten as far in agility as we have. Because of Muggle, not me. I know he far outperforms me in the ring.

4. He's a grandstander. As Ginger said, he is my dog. He does well when he has an audience. He doesn't do particularly well at agility class, or when we practice. But put him on a course at a trial, with an audience, and Muggle will do things I'm positive we haven't learned, trained, practiced, and certainly shouldn't be able to do given how much (or little) we actually do train and practice! And he only does that when he has an audience! Imagine what a little more effort (on my part) could produce?

Eey-ore says, "I won some ribbons, oh well..."
5. He's OCD in a really funny way. Aside from the toys being in their right place, Muggle is a schedule- and routine-driven dog. He likes things to occur in the same way, all the time, every time. So, when 9:30 p.m. roles around, he likes me to head upstairs and get ready for bed. He waits patiently through my part of the routine, knowing the last thing I do before crawling under the covers is give him a biscuit. Then, he's like a machine: eat, get a drink of water, get the gator (his squeaky toy), and come into bed. He plays with gator for 5 minutes, then lays down between me and Matt while we watch TV or read. When Matt turns out his bedside light, Muggle goes downstairs (we have stairs for him to get on/off the bed) and into his crate. At that point, he gets really anal about his schedule. It is now BEDTIME. We do not mess with bedtime. If Matt or I talk after Matt's light goes out (I can still be up reading with the light on, doesn't matter, it's all about the Alpha-Matt) Muggle dives us a "grrrfffff." He's the chaperone. There is no talking, kissing, or moving after Matt's light goes out. Sometimes we make kissy noises just to mess with the dog. Poor Muggle goes crazy and runs back up the stairs into the middle of the bed to get between us and break it up.

He's pretty darn funny. And adorable. And when he gets to the agility field and knows he gets to run, he gets excited and happy. Regardless of ribbons or Qs, there isn't anything as wonderful for me as the look of sheer bliss on his face when Muggle and I are running together:

Just happy to be out playing with me!! (Photo by Matt Drobnik)
Muggle is keeping guard over me right now as I work at my computer. He stares out the window and lets me know when strangers walk by across the street. I think he might also be looking our for "the biscuit lady" and "the biscuit man." A couple who live in the neighborhood carry biscuits when she goes for her morning walk and he for his run. Muggle has learned to time our walks to their routine. On a good day, he can meet Joanne once on her walk and Michael twice on his run.

He's a funny, funny dog.

While I am truly sorry that you can't have the cutest or funniest dog out there since he's mine, I know every one of our pets have their own unique qualities and, while not THE cutest, rhey're all pretty darn cute too. What makes your pet the best?

Muggle with his best-bud, Dagan, getting ready to root for their team.

December 5, 2009. The first photo we saw of Muggle...and decided to adopt him.
Dec. 12, 2009. Muggle's first night with us...after some grooming and neutering.
Looks like a completely different dog, doesn't he? And completely different from what he looks like now, too!


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Perils of Positive Thinking, or Why I'd Rather Be a Curmudgeon

In the RSAnimate video Smile or Die, acclaimed journalist, author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the darker side of positive thinking. Obviously, this appealed to Curmudgeon-Lynne. While watching, all I could do was nod, wipe away an occasional tear, some of happiness knowing I'm not the only one who sees through the smoke-and-mirrors of "happy-happy-joy-joy" and others of sheer terror at how far we (the majority of the American people) have been led down the garden path with this happy-horseshit.

At one point in my life, I was a pretty optimistic person.

Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. At one point, I was naive and even then, I was a realist and had pretty strong critical thinking skills that led me to question and analyze the world around me. It usually didn't stack up to the bill of goods being sold. When it did, it made me very happy. That hits the high points of my optimism.

The video focuses on happy culture in the corporate world, where being a team player and cheerleader trumps knowledge or skills. As I discovered when I went to work for the federal government, it's equally true there. Early on in my tenure as a fed, I was assigned a project overseeing a contractor's progress and ultimate product. It became apparent in short order that there was little (no) progress being made. So, I pointed that out. A few times. Until finally, some scraps of nothing-substantial were submitted. I could've done the same in 30-minutes. Only my work wouldn't have had the typos, poor grammar, or misused words. I pointed out the flaws.

For that, the contractor got more money (because obviously the reason for the shoddy work was their initial inadequate bid, so more $$ would fix it, right?), renewed contracts, and an apology for my tactlessness. I ended up doing the majority of the work (rework), and got sent to "Dale Carnegie," also known as "a total waste of time learning to be a peppy cheerleader for mediocrity". If you aren't familiar with him, Dale Carnegie (he of the "people with mental disorders just need to think positive, happy thoughts" philosophy - seriously, it's in the books they give you to read) was one of the robber barons who made his millions by taking brutal advantage of cheap and abundant labor, only to later be called a "philanthropist" when he used a small fraction of his wealth to build some libraries. The Dale Carnegie course consists of learning how to never say anything that might offend anyone. Ever. Even if they need it. Even if it will help overall productivity and morale to lay the cards on the table so everyone can get to work fixing what doesn't work.
God forbid we should do that. Someone (the idiots who everyone else has to work harder for to carry their weight) might be upset. Brings to mind Nero and Rome. Not a happy time for the Romans, but I'm sure Nero was enjoying the music.

I was one of the lucky ones, however. I've had a few supervisors who value substance more, or at least equally, to form. When I gave my honest assessment of what a waste of money the course was (want to improve my attitude for the same amount of money? Send me on a paid vacation), he stopped sending others.

Prior to and after my life as a fed, I'd worked in private industries both big and small, local government, nonprofits, and academia. I've seen that same "positive" model played out in all of those, all striving to keep an amicable, happy work environment, where top management can retreat to their boardroom meetings, hold hands, and sing Kumbyah because life is so good and isn't everything peachy-keen?

The one place where that brainwashing, tuck our problems away, don't air dirty laundry, don't even acknowledge it's in the hamper attitude isn't so prevalent is in small businesses, where workers become like families, so are willing to argue and fight and occasionally call one another a horse's ass when the situation warrants. That gives me hope that we aren't entirely doomed to a death spiral of happiness and positive thinking. There are still bastions of reality in the workplace. That is my happy thought, my positive thinking that I hold on to and that gives me hope that there are others like me out there. Enough of us to prevent a total meltdown due to sheer ignorant bliss.

I won't go into more detail on the video other than to say, if your inner-curmudgeon needs a reassuring pat that it's okay, there's nothing wrong with a dose of reality, watch this. If you worry about those who embrace misperception as reality because that's so much easier than acknowledging errors and then having to correct them, watch this. And, if you vehemently and violently oppose willful ignorance, watch this. It might not make you happy, but it could make you feel better knowing there are others out there who recognize the perils of positive thinking.

Remember, MIS-perception isn't reality. It's WRONG. Deal with it.

EAnd enjoy the video--but don't be happy about it.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Good Dads --- Bad Dads

John Grisham's 1989 novel A Time to Kill is the story of a man whose 10-year old daughter is brutally raped. Let's be clear here: All rape is brutal, that's why it's classified as a violent crime. It is NOT an act of passion, or lust, or love. It is an act of violence intended to dominate a victim, exert power over the victim, and suppress the victim through force. In the novel, the young girl's father, Carl Lee Hailey, kills the two rapists.
Most sane people, and certainly any good parents' response to that, was "good for him. I'd do that same."

He was a good dad. 
Indeed, in the story, that is just about everyone's response, including the deputy who was accidentally shot and lost a leg in the incident. Carl Lee Hailey was the champion of those who couldn't defend themselves against those with more power. Readers all cheered for him. THIS is what a good father does to protect his child, to ensure she doesn't have to live in a world where the monsters who did this to her run free, and where she would have to live in fear of seeing them over and over again.

Grisham got the idea for the story from a similar true-life event where the father didn't get such justice. He asked himself, "what would happen if the girl's father killed her assailants?" Last year, life imitated art when a Texas man beat to death the attacker of his 5-year old daughter. He was acquitted. There is a law on the books in Texas that allows use of deadly force when defending a victim against sexual assault.

Across the country the primary public reaction was that the incident, while unfortunate, was not murder but rather a justified defense of an underaged crime victim:
He was a good dad.

It goes without say that fathers want to protect their daughters, not only from rapists, but from horny teenage boys and the girl's own libido when they reach adolescence. Wait, let me clarify: that's what GOOD fathers want to do.

I can't fathom, anywhere, by any stretch of my considerable imagination, a good father wanting to embrace his daughter's (or wife's or mother's) attacker. I can't imagine what kind of father, husband, son would consider rape acceptable. And yet, there is an entire political party that has the support of about half the American people, who, through their words and deeds, have shown they support not the women in their lives, but the use of force and violence against them!

The Republican Party platform calls for a constitutional amendment that will make abortions illegal. (GOP Party Platform) - it does not make any exceptions or exemptions for cases of rape or incest.

Thirty-one states have laws protecting the rapist's right to visitation and even custody.

What message is being sent by proposing or showing support for the following statements? Let's look at the subtext and see.

When a husband or father says:

“... I’ve always adopted the idea that, the position that, the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life” (Paul Ryan, August 2012) i.e., rape is just another form of conception, what he's telling his wife is, "If you are raped, that's exactly the same thing as you and I having consensual sex for the sake of reproduction. No problem." And, in the 31 states that allow the rapist visitation, that husband, father, son is further saying, "...and I'll invite your attacker into our home, sit down and have a beer with him, share this child with him, maybe even pat him on the back and give him an "attaboy" for conceiving a child."

A good husband, a good dad, doesn't do that. That's a bad dad.

When a son, husband, father says, "If a rape is inevitable, the woman should just lie back and enjoy it" (Clayton Williams, a candidate for governor of Texas running against Ann Richards made this statement), they are telling their mother, "It's okay for a man to force himself on you, you might as well have a good time with that...he is."

A good son, a good dad, doesn't do that. That's a bad dad.

When a man makes the ignorant and erroneous statement that "a woman's body is capable of preventing pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."" Rep-Todd Akin (R-Mo.) what he is telling your sons is that "it's okay to rape a woman. You won't get them pregnant, but if you do, it's a blessing because that's just another form of conception, and you'll get visitation rights to boot!"

A good son, a good brother, a good husband, a good dad, doesn't do that. That's a bad dad.

(While many on the right would never let something as simple as facts, figures, or scientific evidence get in the way of their beliefs, let me just interject here that "approximately 25,000 women become pregnant through rape each year." - Georgetown Law Review, 2009)

If a woman, whether she is someone's daughter, wife, mother, or sister, has a violent act committed against her, she will have to live with that for the rest of her life. So will the men in her life. Women are far stronger and more resilient than men. She may be strong enough to love that child unconditionally, but the facts show us that few men are (most acts of child abuse are committed by non-parental males living in a household with children.) All evidence indicates that nonparental males have a hard time accepting the child of another man (numerous studies, including one by the conservative Center for Marriage and Families of the Institute for American Values--the right's own think tank--shows that unrelated males in caretaker roles post a particular threat to children).

If a woman wants to and can have  and raise a child resulting from a rape, it should be her CHOICE. and only hers. The choice should not be removed, and she should not be mandated to have a child, to extend the trauma of that experience for 9 months or a lifetime if she doesn't feel she can do that and maintain her own health. She should be the one choosing if she can and will have that child, give it up for adoption or keep it, or abort it.

Please don't argue the "pro-life" position. Those who cheered for the Texas man when he beat his daughter's attacker to death, those who oppose stricter gun regulation, those who oppose welfare, health insurance, and education, and those who support rape as just another means of conception have loudly and clearly demonstrated that they are neither pro-life nor pro-choice. They are pro-sex, pro-conception and pro-gestation, but ANTI-child, and ANTI-LIFE.

These words and actions speak far louder than all their rhetoric about "pro-life." These words and actions support violence against women and male dominance over the women in their lives. They are actions that reward rapists, that reward incest, and that reward misogynists.
These are the actions, laws, policies, and positions of BAD DADS.

What these acts harken to is not the heroics of a father protecting his daughter as in A Time to Kill, but to the roles of males and females shown by Jean Auel in Clan of the Cave Bear, where neanderthal males were able to, and expected to freely rape women as a sign of their dominance over them. Ayla, the Cro Magnon female (those were the first line of modern humans, Homo sapiens), is raped by the neanderthal Broud as an act to show his dominance because he is threatened by Ayla's skill and ability, and because he could; that was the accepted and expected practice. She bore and raised and loved the child conceived of that violent act, but it was her choice. Even the neanderthal women knew which herbs to take to end an unwanted pregnancy.  
I hope all the very many good dads that are out there will support their wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters in the November elections and get rid of the monsters who endorse harm to women. Step up GOOD DADS!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Here we go again!!

The rollercoaster ride of publishing is exhilerating and terrifying. Describing it in words doesn't do it justice, but a very creative blogger, Nathan Bransford, has gone one step further and created a multimedia experience that truly conveys the myriad emotions writers go through from the genesis of an idea through the culmination of the dream with a published book. Then we jump in line for another ride on the rollercoaster!

Here's his post:
The author, hard at work
The Publishing Process in GIF Form

I'm back on the ride and having a terribly superstitious moment right now. Part of me wants to jump up and down and scream "Wheeeee!" The other part is afraid I'll jinx myself if I do, or if I share the news that an agency has asked for an exclusive to review my manuscript (partial) and asked for additional info from me.

HURRAY! HURRAY! YIPPEEE!! I was on the verge of, well, not exactly giving up, but definitely sulking...and then Hanna cheered me up and I persevered, sent out more queries, and HURRAY! HURRAY! Got a request!

So, once again, I'm in a holding pattern, waiting to hear back from them NLT September 24. I'm afraid to get my hopes up only to have them dashed again, but I can't help it!

When it rains, it pours, you know. No surprise that I'd get a second request while I've given exclusive review to another agency! I'll have to keep my fingers crossed that a) agency #1 loves it and signs me, and b) if not, that agency #2 likes it enough to still want to look at it about a month from now.

Whether you're a writer, along on a similar ride, or just a curious reader, take a look at Nathan Bransford's very creative and funny explanation of it all. You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On: Queries, Rejections, and Patience

I'm in the long, tedious, and ego-smashing process of querying for my second novel, Chupacabra. For those of you not familiar with the process of getting published, once you've written your novel, edited it five-ways-to-Sunday, and think it's ready to go forth into the world--your masterpiece--you then have to convince someone else of that.

This is called querying...a nice word for baring your soul and getting your heart ripped to shreds by total strangers. More specifically, by literary agents. You have one, brief shot to make a good impression and that one shot is called a query letter.

A query letter is a brief (3-4 paragraphs, no longer than 1-page) business letter letting the agent know:
  • Why you selected him/her to query
  • The genre of your book
  • The word count of your manuscript
  • What the story is about
  • Why you're the best person to write it
  • Your publishing history
  • That you can write...(demonstrated by your ability to do all of these things in less than one page and make it fascinating enough that they want to read more).
Once you've researched agencies and agents to find out who might be interested and compatible with you (this will be a long-term relationship, one hopes), you start sending off query letters. This entails reviewing the agency's submission requirements and revising and tailoring said query letter to their unique requirements.

Then you send the letter (and perhaps a 1-2 page synopsis and/or some sample pages or chapters, depending on their submission guidelines), and wait.

After a few weeks (or, in some cases minutes, hours, or days), the rejections start flowing in. At this point, that "I'm-on-top-of-the-world" glow you've worn since writing "The End" (for the sixth or seventh time, after each round of edits) is replaced by a morose, dull look of dejection. No one loves me. They don't even like me. They hate me. <Sigh.>

The London Olympics provided me with a new slogan and path forward when I get to the heavy-sigh stage:

Yes, that's all there is for it. Rejections will come, rejections will go, and until you've amassed a significant number of them, you probably haven't put yourself out there sufficiently as a writer.

This week, when I started to sink below the heavy-sigh stage into the I-suck stage, I received a phone call from a dear friend who also happens to be a brilliant writer--and one who makes a living at it! I'd sent her my ms to see what she thought. I'd been considering some drastic changes after only a relatively few rejections. Hanna said "Don't change a thing! It's exactly right just the way it is." She loved it! She really loved it! Her enthusiasm and positive feedback were just what I needed to keep me calm and carry on querying.

It's hard (impossible?) for a writer to judge his or her own work. In the past, others have judged my writing worthy of publication. When I go back and look over my publication list (something I had to compile as per one agency's submission requirements), I'm prepared to cringe. Will I be embarassed when they go and look at these? I will be judged based on the words I've written. Are there things I'd change? Certainly. But, rewriting forever more, in search of perfection, won't get us published.

At some point, we have to take a deep breath, keep calm, and carry on. That means querying and rejection. These days, while waiting for the rejections to roll in, I practice my casual, flip of the hand and merry response for future interviews: "Rejections? I have hundreds of them. They come with the territory. A writer just has to expect them, have patience, keep calm, and carry on."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chick-Fil-A and Divine Retribution

In case you missed it, since it was buried beneath Olympic headlines, the 60-year old "chief spokesman" for Chick-fil-A, Don Perry (VP of public relations), died early yesterday from a presumed heart attack. My condolences go out to Mrs. Perry, not only for her loss, but for the life in store for her should she too be a firm believer in the passage of Leviticus that her husband had to defend, thanks to company president, Dan Cathy.

If you're living under a rock and so haven't heard about the controversy caused by Chick-fil-A company president, Dan Cathy, making remarks on homosexuality that echo those of insane, inbred Westboro Baptist Church in their protests against military funerals., Cathy said, "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage."

Cathy's remarks raise so many questions about who can and how we're supposed to interpret the Bible.

The first and most obvious question is, "How does he (Cathy) know what God thinks?"

When Westboro Baptist Church says the same thing in their protests at military funerals, pretty much all sane people oppose their stance. When Cathy states the same anti-American position, some hypocrites rush to support him. Are they saying God thinks it's okay to be a bigot, just not at a funeral? Is it solely military funerals one shouldn't be a bigot at, or all funerals?

Cathy should actually read more of the passages around the one he cherry picks to support his position. If he truly embraces ALL of the words of the Bible, he, and Mrs. Perry, are in for some rough times. But, since he seems unwilling to actually read the WHOLE Bible, I'll help him out, courtesy of a fellow-writer and friend, Karen, who posted this beautiful summary of that entire section of Leviticus on Facebook:

"READ LEVITICUS. Yes, it says homosexuality, bestiality and incest are abominations. Of course, so is eating pork, shellfish, divorce and premarital sex. It says if a man sees a woman naked while on her period they shall both be sent into exile, it says a widow is only allowed to remarry if it's her husband's brother - after the first half which goes into detail on how to prepare your animal for sacrifice.

 "To quote the only true Christian I know, "One sin isn't worse than another, who am I to compare my sins to someone else's? It's not my place to judge." That's the difference between religious and SELF RIGHTEOUS. (FYI, you may want to keep in mind a lot of people on Facebook knew you when you were scarfing down a ham sandwich, getting laid or pregnant before marriage, or getting divorced, or having an affair, or whatever other dumb mistakes you made in your past.) DON'T USE THE BIBLE TO JUSTIFY YOUR BIGOTRY OR PREJUDICE!""

Oh dear. This does put Mr. Cathy, as well as poor Mr. Perry's widow in an odd predicament. Will Mr. Cathy, staying true to his beliefs in a literal interpretation of that specific section of the Bible, insist that Mrs. Perry marry her brother-in-law?

Does Mr. Cathy banish Mrs. Cathy from the house to some cave each month so he won't accidentally cross her path adn condemn himself and her to exile? What about the bacon that goes on those Chick-fil-A sandwiches? Has he himself never eaten any? What degree of guilt is confered on someone who offers that evil temptation to customers, condemning them to the flames of hell? Doesn't his putting bacon on a sandwich bring down God's judgment on the country? By offering bacon on the menu, isn't he "shaking his fist at [God] and saying "I know better than you"?"

And what about those chickens they serve? Are they prepared according to the directions that follow in Leviticus? I'm guessing Leviticus doesn't say "cram they fowl into tiny cages and force-feed them of the antibiotic compounds and growth-hormone laced feed." More likely they're killed according to industry, not Biblical, practice. Doesn't that mean he's bringing down the wrath of God on our nation?

I also wonder how Mr. Cathy feels about violating three of the seven deadly sins: gluttony (sorry, fast food is nothing but a luxury item intended to feed people who all ready have too much food), greed (luring people in to eat fast food so he can make a profit while people are starving in the world certainly covers that one!), and pride (seriously, he knows what God intended by the words written by man and interpreted for a few men's (the clergy's) benefit? Talk about pride!) Has he given it any thought, or is he too busy thinking about gay sex?

Isn't it funny that someone who claims to be so Christian is so selective about what parts of Christ's teachings he'll comply with? Or that he's willing to ignore Christ's teachings in the New Testament to embrace parts of the Old Testament that Jesus Christ clearly overrode? What happened to love they neighbor as thyself? Judge not lest you be judged? How does a "good Christian" reconcile their homophobia with the discovery of the genetic basis for homosexuality--the proof that God made someone that way--and their belief that God is infallible? The logical conclusions to that are either that homosexuality IS acceptable to God, or that God makes mistakes. If you want to vehemently embrace your bigotry, your only option is to grant that God does make mistakes. That opens the whole can of worms for arguments about your own interpretation of the Bible. Any passage, any "directive" claiming to be right from God, could be wrong!

I just don't get homophobia. Even more, I don't get how people can forget Jesus Christ's teachings when they're busy shouting so loudly about how "Christian" they are. Maybe we should pay less attention to Leviticus and more to Matthew?

Matthew 6:6
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

Matthew 7:1-5
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

To Mrs. Perry, you have my condolences on the loss of your husband. I hope your brother-in-law and future spouse is a good man, and that your sister-in-law and future sister-wife is kind. And that you all enjoy your life in Utah and conversion to Mormonism.

To Mr. Cathy, maybe you should read the WHOLE Bible?

To anyone who has to live in fear because of self-righteous bigotry wrapped in a Bible, remember Isaiah 35:4: "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."

As for me, I admit it. I'm angry over this all for selfish reasons. I loved those waffle fries, damnit. Now I'll have to wait for some entrepreneur to step up and fill the void left in my fast food options by Chick-fil-A's unpalatable position. I guess there is a silver-lining here. Mr. Cathy has created an opportunity for job creation in the market place!