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Sunday, December 29, 2013

8 week update: Going"au naturale"

It's been 8 weeks since I last colored my hair. Normally, this is around the time when those pesky gray hairs are really noticeable, especially the skunk stripe along my part, and the color is growing dull. About now, I'd usually think, "I'll need to color again in the next few weeks." (Yes, I always think that about 2 weeks too late.)

So, of course now that I'm not going to be covering up the grays, my hair is actually looking pretty good and the color seems to be holding its intensity longer than usual. The demarcation between colored and new growth is not as pronounced as I remember, either.

Christmas Day 2013: 8 weeks since coloring.
(Note the awesome Christmas Star Trek Science Officer PJs,
a Christmas gift from BIL Chris and SIL Amy.)







The gray strands are coming out along the part and are especially noticeable around my temples.








But, what I just realized while looking at some family photos over the holidays, is that I don't have to guess what my hair will look like--both the natural color and the amount of gray--when this process is complete. I have a model that I think will be pretty darn close to what I can expect: my brother, Matt. (Yes, bro and hubby are both Matts.)

My brother and I could and often did pass for twins when we were kids. We were twins of the "Irish" variety--born far too close together for what would be deemed "proper." In the early-70s, Matt and I had similar unisex shag haircuts. I loved dressing like my twin, and grandma catered to my whims, so we often wore similar clothes, too. For much of high school, we both had the ubiquitous late-70s/early-80s 'feathered bangs' haircut with a center part, too. (My hair refused to do any poofy-Farrah style coifing.) My taste in clothes hadn't improved any either. I still dressed like a boy. We further confused things by overlapping classes. Bro could be a lazy student, and school came easy to me, so by the time we were in high school, I was ahead of him in math even though he was a grade ahead of me, further confusing our birth order and promoting our twin status. We looked so much alike that in college, my mother often confused us in photos. In one case, she saw a picture of me on a beach in St. John and asked when my brother had come to visit. Me...girl....beach...being confused with my brother. I did have a tee-shirt on but still...think about it. Why, yes, that is a wee bit insulting. 


Me and Bro-Matt (2007) not looking as twin-like with my red hair.

In our mid-20s, Bro-Matt and I both sprouted our first grays and for the next decade, whenever we got together, we'd compare to see who had more. Then I started covering them. Not only covering them, but changing the color of my hair entirely. Now, as you can see, we don't look quite as identical. 

But, I'm pretty sure that under my sassy red hair, what I really have is the same dark brown, salted with grays, more so around the temples, that Bro-Matt has. As I sift through my hair, checking out the roots, I see the back is darker than the sides, just like Matt's. 

Bro-Matt and nephew Robert (November 2013)
Maybe the change back to uncolored hair won't be as drastic as I'd anticipated. Which brought me to another realization: this is definitely the time to do this, now, when the transition from red to brown with some gray won't be as startling. If I wait another 5 or 10 years, I could be going from color to all or mostly white/gray/silver, instead of merely to a different color with a smattering of silver/gray. 

I've also come to the realization that it's going to take the full year I've allotted and maybe then some. Patience isn't one of my strong points. My short attention span typically precludes me from doing anything for that long. I ran a marathon in 2000, not to see if I could complete the 26.2 miles, but to see if I could commit to something--running--for the amount of time it would take to prepare. I'm going to approach this like I did training for the marathon: it's not about the destination, it's about committing to the journey. It's only been 8 weeks, less time than I usually go between colorings, and I'm already eager for this transition to be over with. But, I'm also more confident that it's the right choice for me and for now. Hopefully, that will translate into determination to see this through rather than giving up when my hair does start to look bad. And I know it will.

I'll update again next month. By then, my skunk stripe should really be noticeable!

Monday, December 9, 2013

You're Invited to a Launch Party!

You're all invited to a virtual party on December 17, 2013! It's the official Facebook virtual book launch party for author Normandie Fischer's Sailing Out of Darkness. This is a great opportunity to discover Normandie's writing, if you haven't already, as well as a number of other authors who are participating in the event.


I was lucky enough to have a sneak-preview of Sailing Out of Darkness in the pre-publication stages and can't wait for it to be available to all of you! Normandie is a fabulous writer (Becalmed is a favorite of mine) whose work will appeal to a wide range of readers, and especially to those with an affinity for the shore and sailing.

I'm also lucky to be included among the other authors she'll be featuring during the launch party, and will be giving away free copies (electronic and print) of Marina Melee, and 2 print copies of Ye Gods! (although that won't be available until it comes out on April 1.)

Normandie has posted the first "teaser" for the party here, with more to come. You can also learn more about her fascinating life and experiences living aboard Sea Venture, her books, and her thoughts on the writing life, both at sea and on land at her blog by clicking here.

I hope to "see" you all at the launch party!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Going "au naturale"

I have a confession to make. I'm not a natural redhead. Yes, I love my red in all the various shades I've worn over the last decade, from a single screaming-pink stripe, to dark auburn with an orange stripe, to cinnamon with ginger highlights and everything in between, I adore the fun, bright, and varied red hues I've tried. The photos below give just a sampling.



Dark Auburn (2013)
Cinnamon with a bright orange stripe (2006)
Light auburn with ginger highlights (2010)
As much as I love being an unnatural redhead, lately, it's been getting harder and harder to maintain it. Where I used to get by with 1 or 2 beauty salon color treatments (read $$$$ dye jobs) interspersed with a couple of at-home root touch-ups or coloring each year, I now find that pesky skunk-stripe shows up more quickly. And the single box 'o coloring off the drug store shelf has missed some spots. That's not because my hair is getting longer or thicker, but I'm not sure if the real reason is because my grays are getting more resistant to coloring, there are just more of them overall, or I've missed patches because of my failing eyesight. None of the options sound good, do they?

As you may have read in my "week of 50" posts, one of the things I've been looking forward to about passing my half-decade mark is the freedom to not give a shit about societal pressure to look young. One of the biggest ways I'd like to do that, is by not coloring my hair, going back to my natural color, whatever that may be.

I've been coloring my hair for so long, that I no longer have a clear idea of what my natural color is (in my mind, it's what's in that third picture: light auburn with ginger highlights, but alas, that ain't so.) If I hunt back through old photos, I can see that it's really more of a medium, ick-brown. At least it was. Given the increasing "lightness" of my roots and hairline between coloring, I suspect it's more gray than brown these days. Just how much, though, is anybody's guess.

But, I'm going to find out. I'm going to do it. I'm going au naturale. I owe a big thanks to Cindy, who is forging the path by starting this process ahead of me, and who has given me the courage and support to "go for it."

I last colored my hair toward the end of October. Now, I'm implementing my one-year plan to go sans color. It's a one-year-plan because I don't have the fortitude to go cold-turkey and watch the roots grow out in sharp, horrific, glorious contrast to the red. I've been reading here, and researching there, and sounds like, aside from shaving my head, the best way to go from colored to natural hair is with highlighting and lowlighting to blend the incoming colors with the outgrowing ones. This, along with regular haircuts--inching a bit shorter to remove the old color with each trim--can ease the transition.

I have myriad reasons for wanting to do this. First, I'm a cheapskate by nature. Paying $150-$200 a few times a year to color my hair makes me twitchy. I'm also not a natural primper. Having to make time for hair care of any kind, for me, is an inconvenience. The environmentalist/biologist side of me sees the irony in my general opposition to releasing harmful chemicals into the environment because of potential human and environmental health impacts while I soak my head in chemicals every 8-10 weeks to keep my hair color intact. Finally, as I've been considering this move, I look around at some beautiful, smart, talented women whom I admire, and who have either never colored their hair or have chosen to stop. Thank you for looking beautiful and giving me the courage to do this Kris D, Kris M, Liz F, Sara M, Mary T., Sunny, my mother-in-law (gorgeous, pewter hair), and mom (who stopped coloring in her 30s and had beautiful salt-and-pepper hair by her 40s and now has the most gorgeous silver/white hair--I hope I got those genes!), and all my other friends who have shown the world that gray isn't old and frumpy, but sexy and confident!

While hairdressers and "youngsters" have said, "Don't do it! It'll make you look old!" what I see when I look at these ladies is elegance, self-confidence, and beauty. Their silver, platinum, white, and pewter hair is sophisticated and poised. They are comfortable in their own skin--and hair. I don't think a change to my natural hair color will automatically give me any of those qualities, but I admire the look. I'm going to give it a try.

Here's an interview with one woman who has taken this step, followed on page 3 of the article by an interview with Jamie Lee Curtis on her own experience. This blog tells another woman's experience with the transition.

Below is the most recent picture I have of myself. It's from Halloween 2013, so I probably colored my hair the weekend before. I'll post pics and my thoughts in the process along the way.
At the start of my transition. October 31, 2013


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Big News on the Writing Front!

Marina Melee is being featured Monday at The Fussy Librarian!

The Fussy Librarian is a new website that offers personalized ebook recommendations. You choose from 30 genres and indicate preferences about content and then the computers work their magic. It's a great place for readers to discover new authors writing in the genres and style they want and for authors to connect with new readers. Give it a try!

How hard can it be to run a marina?

George H. Marshall III has it all, and he wants to get away from it: women, a busy social calendar, and his so-called career in the family oil business. Determined to prove to his parents that he is more than a spoiled, womanizing, over-aged adolescent, George buys Porto da Vida Marina on a small island in the Caribbean. What could be an easier road to business success than running a marina on a tropical island? 

As mishap piles on disaster, George realizes his new life in paradise isn't all about sitting under palm trees sipping umbrella drinks. Between his wayward staff, the governor's hot-to-trot wife, a lift truck possessed by jumbies, and a host of other island disasters-natural and human-George finds that living the easy life is hard work.


AND MORE BIG NEWS!

Ye Gods! A Tale of Dogs and Demons is scheduled for an April 1, 2014 release from Casperian Books!

Is it real or a myth? Dog only knows.

Author Jack Halliman sails to Puerto Rico seeking a cure for writer's block, but instead finds a dead body. When a second corpse turns up, Jack becomes one of two suspects. The other is the chupacabra.

Now Jack has to find out who--or what--is responsible for the killings before he lands in prison. Again.

As the conniving mayor, a dogged detective, and a voodoo practicing 14-year old drag him deeper into the investigation, Jack discovers that separating reality from myth is no easy feat. The lines between men and monsters, monsters and gods, and in this case, between gods and a dog, are thin and blurry.

 



Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Final Countdown: What I AM looking forward to now that I'm 50!

Phew, I made it!
 
What I'm really looking forward to as a reward for my 50th cumpleaño is spending another year with my wonderful husband, terrific friends, and our loving family.

Thank you ALL for making this, and every year, so very special for me!

My honey, on one of our adventures: zip-lining in Costa Rica



Friday, September 27, 2013

Countdown to 50: Things I am and AM NOT looking forward to

Tomorrow is it! I will have completed my 50th year on Earth. That's a long, long...long, long, long time. Makes me tired just thinking about it!

So, the last thing I'm NOT looking forward to: more doctor's appointments! Especially if the doctor's keep telling me stupid things like:

"It's not a melanoma, it's an age spot" (got that one this week!)

"You're in terrific shape...for a woman your age" (heard that at my last annual physical.)

"No, your thyroid is perfectly normal. You just need to exercise more and eat less" (at a gyno appointment 2 years ago.)

"Unable to sleep through the nights? That's just a normal part of aging for women" (at that same gyno appointment.)

Seriously?! Where did these doctor's get their medical degrees? Anything they can't explain, they blame on getting older. I've been getting older for my whole life and I've NEVER had these problems. I know I must have something serious, probably terminal, so they don't want to even bother telling me since I'm a goner anyway.

That's another thing I'm not looking forward to...becoming a hypochondriac. You know "they" (no, I don't know who they are) say that women turn into their mothers as they get older. If that's the case, lookout medical world, 'cause here I come! My mother is a champion hypochondriac. A big portion of her social life involves doctors' appointments.

For a funny look at doctor's appointments, watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXv_9tth518

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Countdown to 50: Things I AM and am not looking forward to

With only two days to go until I'm over the hill, one of the things I'm REALLY, REALLY looking forward to is the more relaxed pace of life I'll be able to enjoy as I get older.

No, seriously. All you over-50 readers out there, stop laughing. I mean it. Life is going to slow down to a nice, easy pace. I'll have time to sip coffee and enjoy the sunrise in the mornings, putter around the yard for a bit, then sit down and write for a few uninterrupted hours. After that, I'll go out for a leisurely stroll and have time to enjoy it rather than looking at my watch, anxious about the next place I have to get to or thing I have to do. Then maybe I'll write some more before sitting side-by-side with my hubby (who will have spent an equally relaxing day), and enjoy a glass of wine as we watch the sunset. Then we'll take the time to cook a lovely, heart-healthy meal together, with lots of fresh veggies from the garden I'd been tending that morning, and then sit back to enjoy our meal and conversation without gulping it all down to rush off to the next activity or obligation.

STOP LAUGHING! I really am looking forward to it. I know the elusive, laid back life of a senior citizen is out there. I've been looking forward to that from the time I was 20 looking toward my "easy" 30s, from my 30s waiting in eager anticipation for the slow down I knew would come in my 40s, and now in my 40s, I can almost reach out and touch the slow, easy pace of life! I KNOW I'll find that in my 50s, right?

Yep, me and Matt, aging gracefully, relaxing at the rest stops for some wine.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Countdown to 50: Things I am and AM NOT looking forward to

Only 3 days to go!

Here are some more things I'm not looking forward to as I get to 50 and beyond. The video below is a hoot--I am NOT looking forward to pretty much everything on Mary's list:

  • random hair growth
  • forgetting to turn off the directional
  • non-life threatening skin growths
  • neck skin
  • forgetfulness in general

For the complete list, and for a good laugh, listen to the rest of Mary's prayer about getting older:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPFCn3itBFE

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Countdown to 50: Things I AM and am not looking forward to

Four days 'til the big half century B-Day and I'm continuing to count down with things I am looking forward to as I complete my 50th year and enter into my 51st (cumpleaño, remember? If not, scroll down to my post, "On Completing 50.")

Yesterday, I said I wasn't looking forward to all I'd have to spend to keep my hair its current color. I'm seriously looking forward to the time when my hair turns completely gray/white/silver, rather than the icky hodgepodge of brown/gray that I have now. When that happens, I'm going for it: ALL NATURAL! No color. I'm not sure how I'll go about growing the colored hair out from the natural gray/white/silver: will I have to shave my head and start over? Wear hats for a year? Dye it all white and let it grow out from there? Who knows? That's something to be considered at some point down the road, well after I've gone "over the hill" of 50. Maybe 60. (I did get a good suggestion from Sarah in yesterday's comments: blonde as it grows out so the difference in colors isn't quite as drastic.) Maybe I'll feel differently about it at 60 and put it off to 70. We'll see. I have some time to figure that out.

Jamie Lee Curtis was brave and went gray and looks fabulous!
But, I probably won't go that short. I'd look like an old man.

Here's what I'm hoping for when I actually do go gray.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Count Down to 50: Things I am and AM NOT looking forward to

Five days to go until the BIG 5-0!

I'm counting down by listing things I am and am not looking forward to as I crest the half century mark and start on my downhill slide.

I am NOT looking forward to the ever increasing frequency, effort, and cost that will go into maintaining my unnatural red hair. I've often been tempted to see what happens if I stop coloring my hair. Then the roots start showing and I'm shocked at how much gray is in there! And it isn't a lovely salt and pepper, as my mother's hair was at my age. It isn't a shiny silver, as hers is now. No, it's gunmetal, bland, flat gray mixed with my true, mouse-brown, bland natural hair color. Bring on the red-in-a-box and price be damned!

Mom, with her shiny silver hair, me with a "screamin' red stripe," and niece Kim,
a natural blonde who is now a sometime brunette, sometime auburn, sometime brownette.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Count down to 50: Things I AM and am not looking forward to.

Six days to go!

I suppose this is a cheat since I don't have to look forward to it: I received my AARP card a few months ago thanks to hubby turning 50 back in February. He signed me up then, so I've had my card for 7 months. Still, I will have "earned" my card.

I'm looking forward to walking into fast food restaurants, hotels, and other businesses and asking for my whopping 5-10% AARP discount!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Count Down to 50: Things I am and AM NOT Looking Forward to at 50

One week til my half-century birthday! So, I'll be counting down with a list of things I am and am NOT looking forward to at 50.

Let's just get the "biggie" out of the way. This is the year the doctor's have been warning us about! Starting about 3 years ago, doctors started hinting and, I suppose, trying to mentally prepare me for the essential medical test for the 50+ crowd: a colonoscopy.

NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT! But, what can you do but laugh about it, and this certainly got me laughing!


 http://www.youtube.com/embed/_43f9RzAqMM

Sunday, September 15, 2013

On Completing 50...

 A few months ago, I wrote about the trials and tribulations of turning 50. You remember that (not you personally turning 50, but my blog about it), don't you? The wiry gray eyebrows, hot flashes and insomnia, wrinkles, sags, and bags? Then, I finished saying I'd keep you posted as I sat back and used an objective, scientific eye to observe and report on the process.

Not my eyebrows, but I swear sometimes when I
look into that damn magnifying mirror, this is what I see!
Well, that hasn't happened. I mean, I've been observing the whole process, in minute, gory detail. I've just failed to a.) be objective about it, and b.) report on it. So, now here I am 13 days away from my 50th birthday, wondering where the last few months have gone!

To be honest, I've discovered that turning 50 is really quite liberating. Not in the way I expected it to be back in my 30s when I thought, "damn, that's old" and not as I expected even a decade ago ("then I'll be so old I'll be able to just let myself go and it won't matter.) Instead, it's given me a new perspective and new freedom to look at life with new eyes.

I know, I know. How can 50-year-old eyes be new? Well, after having spent many a navel-gazing hour reflecting on my life (what else is there to do while floating around the pool? I can't read 'cause my reading sunglasses are polarized so I can't see my tablet screen, and holding a book over head becomes so taxing after a page or two for us old folk), I came up with a quick summary of my adult life. I really don't know if it holds true for everyone, only for me.

In my 20s, I knew everything. I had the answers. I was so much smarter than my parents had ever been. I'd never make any mistakes. I'd charge ahead full force and conquer the world, avoiding pitfalls and obstacles because I could.

Me, at 22.
Youth is so wasted on the young.
Ha!

In my 30s, I looked back on the hubris and arrogance of my 20s. What does youth know of hard choices and sacrifice. Or of hard work, for that matter? My 20s had been full of childish games and conceits. In my 30s, I worked hard and learned valuable lessons. That was my time. Before then, I thought I knew everything, but now, I'd learned--usually the hard way--just how young, naïve, and ignorant I'd been. In my 20s, I didn't know what I didn't know. That might be the only thing that let me survive that decade. With the new awareness that "the more I learned the less I knew,"  I was able to really grow and conquer the world in my 30s because then I'd REALLY learned everything.

Celebrating my 30th birthday with Julie.
She's been helping me celebrate for 20+ years now.
Despite that, we refuse to grow up!
Right.

By my 40s, I started to have some doubts about my knowledge base, but I knew I knew a whole lot more than I had before. I also knew that there would always be more to learn, that I'd have to keep an open mind forever to really continue to grow as a person. But I was confident in my ability to keep learning, absorbing, taking it all in. I'd be a lifelong learner, tackling new realms and pursuing new knowledge. The 40s would be my time to achieve life goals, have new experiences, take on the world on my terms with full awareness that I still had many lessons to learn.

Julie and I celebrated our 40th year with by getting tattoos when our day at Brewers Bay Beach
was rained out. Later that year, we did a group trip to Jost van Dyke with a group of friends
who'd all turned 40 that year and all lived in the VI at overlapping times.
Sure.

So, what do I think of all that aggressive, active pursuit of knowledge now that I'm staring down the eyes of 50? Who cares? I'm exhausted. Just thinking about all that wore me out. I had to go get a glass of wine and take a break. Not only do I now realize I don't know squat, less than a drop in the bucket of all the knowledge in the universe, but I don't care, either. The world is a big and fascinating place. No one person is ever going to know everything there is to know about it and no one expects me, or anyone, to have all the answers. Anyone who thinks they do, anyone who is fully confident that they're right is either young or an idiot. I no longer feel like there's some deficit in me if I'm not certain. That's what makes life interesting--the unknown. Fifty has given me the freedom to not worry about being certain and having the answers. If it's important, maybe I can find out about it, and if not, oh well. The world won't end. I have embraced my ignorance.

I've also bypassed the entire "turning 50" trauma by switching from "American English" thinking: I'm turning 50; to the chronologically correct Spanish term: Cumplo 50 años. On my birthday in 13 days, I will not turn 50, but I will have completed 50 years of life. Thus, rendering it too late for the trauma and drama of those pesky milestone birthdays because that year is now done, completed. Over.


Visiting in NY.
And a spectacular 50th year it's been. My second novel, Ye Gods! A Tale of Dogs and Demons was accepted for publication by Casperian Books (it'll be coming out in spring 2014), we got to see family in Chicago and New York and enjoyed our Hinkey nieces and nephew visiting us here, a spectacular visit with our best friends in San Diego, had all sorts of wonderful times with friends throughout the year, and expect a few more before my 50th year is complete (zip-lining in NC with the Gosses next weekend!)

Hinkey and Masaryk visit to SC

At the Birch Aquarium in San Diego with Misty and Terry

All in all, fifty is feeling pretty fabulous right now. With age doesn't necessarily come wisdom, but perhaps more wit to deal with it all, and enough exhaustion from those previous five decades to really not care about wasting energy on the things that really don't matter.

I can't wait to see what the next decade brings!

With Shana and Sheila at the Dirty Girl Mud Run
for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research.


The main reason life just keeps getting better all the time.
(Don't be silly. The giraffe was awesome, but I meant my husband, of course!)




 



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

DECODING THE MUGGLE RULE BOOK

Do your dogs (or cats) seem to play by their own rule book? Mine does and I really wish I had some way to decode it. Muggle seems to have a very detailed and specific set of rules he plays by and all I can equate it to is obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD, a la Tony Shalhoub's Monk character. Can a dog have OCD? What are all those rules about? I'd love to decode Muggle's behavior to understand the rules he plays by!

Here's a look at Muggle's "normal" behavior throughout the day. Tell me what you think.

The morning routine.

6:00 a.m. Climb into bed. Morning rules: lay down exactly 1-arm's length away so the food-lady can pet me, but barely. No snuggling. If food-lady doesn't stretch out her arm and pet me, paw at her until she does. If she moves closer, give her "the look" and move to the foot of the bed.

The Look: "You want to cuddle? Really?"
 

7:00 a.m. Breakfast time. Paw at food-lady, then get down from the bed and stare at her. If that doesn't get her up, make "grrff" sounds until she's awake. Go outside to pee before breakfast. Breakfast rules: Refuse to eat until food-lady gives me an appetizer. If it isn't good enough (beggin' bits or cheese) spit it out, give her "the look" and walk away. Do not begin to eat my food until the cat tries to get at it.

7:30 a.m. Pace in front of the door and "grrrfff" until we walk. If food-lady doesn't respond quickly enough, pace faster.  

The Look: Where's the breakfast appetizer?

The walk rules: Stop at the end of the driveway and search both ways for biscuit-lady and biscuit-man (a couple in our neighborhood who carry dog biscuits with them when he runs/she walks.) Go in whichever direction they are. If they aren't out, turn right. (Always go to the right for our morning walk unless we can turn left for a biscuit!)

When we return, sit in front of the treat cupboard giving food-lady "the look" until she gives me a treat (dentabones or jerky are the only acceptable post-walk treat; if she tries to sneak in anything else, spit it out, give her "the look" and walk away.)

9:00 a.m. Snuffle through the toy box, find the correct toy, and wave it in front of food-lady until she plays. If she ignores me, paw at her. Give her "the look" and wave the toy some more. If she doesn't play "right" sit and give her "the look" then paw at her and try again.

Rules of morning play: Use only the toy I bring to you--no other is acceptable, even if it was my favorite toy yesterday. Today's toy is the only one I play with. No tugging too hard or I will drop the toy, go to my pillow and pout. No tugging too soft or I will drop the toy, go to my pillow and pout. No playing in any room other than the family room.

9:15 a.m. Stop playing, no matter what we're doing or how much fun it is. Lay down. Ignore any further attempts by the food-lady to engage me in play.

9:15 a.m. Play time is officially over.

The evening routine.

5:15 p.m. Start pacing and "grrffff"-ing to let them know it's dinner time. Dinner rules: Refuse to eat until I get a beggin' bit. Pace in front of the door and "grrrfff" until we walk. Always go to the left for our evening walk.

6:30 p.m. The food-people's dinner time: stare pathetically until I get to sample their food. Spit it out unless it's steak or seafood. Chicken is sometimes acceptable, but not always. If they try to feed me anything else, give them "the look."

The Look: You expect me to eat that?
 
When the food people attempt to watch television, jump on the couch between them. Paw and grrrff until they pet me. But, if they call me onto the couch, ignore them.

9:30 p.m. Bedtime. Grrfff and pace until the food-people turn off the television or computers. If they don't, pace back and forth from them to the stairs to let them know. If all else fails, give them "the look" and bark. If they have other humans visiting, bark at them until they leave or go to bed.

The Look: Are you still here?

Bedtime rules: Wait patiently while the food-lady prepares for bed. If she forgets to put my water dish down and give me a treat, growl at her. After my treat and water, climb into bed to hump "girlfriend" (stuffed alligator toy) for 5 minutes, no more, no less. If girlfriend isn't already on the bed, drag her to the stairs and grrfff at food-lady until she brings girlfriend into the bed. Lay between food-lady and food-man and demand pets. Paw at them if they don't cooperate. When food-man turns out his light, get off the bed and go into my crate to sleep.

Repeat.

Muggle's schedule doesn't vary by much from day-to-day. Even when we went to Chicago, he stuck to his routine, except everything was 1-hour earlier (by the clock) because of the time zone change. He's a great traveler and adapts well to new environments, but don't mess with his routines or he gets twitchy.

He's also a good host when other dogs visit his house. As feisty as he can be on a leash or at the agility field, when other dogs come to our house, he's very accommodating. He lets "company" eat and drink from his bowls, play with his toys, and wander around his house. He has pulled his favorite toys out of the basket and hidden them in the sofa when other dogs visit, but he's pretty polite about sharing the others.
Muggle with his favorite houseguest, Dagan.
As for his toys, he can get twitchy about where they are--we must follow the toy rules. He has a toy basket downstairs and 3-4 toys in the bedroom upstairs. If the upstairs toys go down or vice versa, he will frantically search the toy basket, taking inventory, then move the toy to where it belongs.  

Muggle also has fetch rules. He loves to play fetch, but only at the agility field, in the family room, or in his grandparents' yards. If you throw the ball for him anywhere else (including our own yard!), he'll get it and take it into the house or to the car. He won't give it back to you. When he's done playing fetch, he'll bring the ball back to you and drop it, and walk away. If I throw it then, he'll give me "the look" and walk away.
Fetch is okay at Grandma Hinkey's house.

I know we've somehow instilled these routines in Muggle, but even without the schedule, he seems to have his own set of rules for how things get done. I'd love to have a chat with him and see what he thinks about all this, to somehow decode the Muggle Rule Book and see how and why he's such a very orderly dog. I'm sure Matt would like to know how he can get some of Muggle's orderliness to rub off on me, too.

What do you think? Do we have an OCD dog, or just a spoiled one? Do your dogs have unusual rules, routines, or behaviors they play by? What do you think your dog (or cat) would tell you about their routines if they could?

The Look: Are we done here?

 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You've Been Skyped!

My fellow member of the Internet Writing Workshop, Jack Shakely, wrote a hilarious op-ed for the LA Times: Skype Makes Monsters of Us All. If you've ever looked at that little inset video image of yourself while Skyping with someone, you'll relate!

Too funny not to share! For those of you who have never had the dubious pleasure of seeing the Skyped you, here's evidence in support of Jack's contention that your webcam adds 10 years to anyone over 50.

Exhibit A. Me via my laptops webcam. (And I left my glasses on,
glare and all, because I'm too vain to let you see how bad it looks without them!)


Monday, June 24, 2013

CAUTION: It's Distracted Driving Season!

It's graduation and prom season and the start of summer--lots going on, and lots of young drivers on the road (not that they're the only ones who can be distracted while driving!)--so a good time to share some info on distracted driving and encourage your loved ones to keep their eyes and attention on the road!

[[[[[Here's an infographic from ////website link removed at the request of the host, Insurance Quotes. Org////]]] on some of the more common and dangerous things we've all been distracted by while driving at one time or another! Click on the images of the various distractions and scroll down to read how they can impact our driving and our insurance rates!

Everyone enjoy your summer and be safe out on the roads!

////THE FOLLOWING INFOGRAGPHIC HAS BEEN REMOVED AT THE REQUEST OF THE HOST SITE.////
Please include attribution to Insurance Quotes. org with this graphic.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hurray! My First 1-Star Review on Amazon

Today I'm celebrating! Marina Melee received its first 1-star review on Amazon. You may ask, "Why would anyone celebrate a bad review?" It's a good question and one I've given a lot of thought. A one-star review means there's someone out there who read my book and felt strongly enough to take time out of their life to tell the world what they thought about it. Pretty heady stuff!

 
Click HERE to go to Marina Melee on Amazon


Similar to "there's no such thing as bad publicity," I can't imagine what's bad about someone reading my book and being compelled to further consider it long enough to write something about it--aside from the ego-pounding, soul-crushing part, of course.

 

For most writers, our first readers are people we know: family, friends, critique group members (who become acquaintances, if not friends), and people who know the author personally. When they read our stories, they aren't reading "a story," they're reading "Lynne's story." That has to color their perceptions (hopefully in a good way) to some degree. Those first readers tell their family and friends about our book and word spreads. We get readers who only know us indirectly. Still, there's a connection. It isn't until you get to total strangers that you run the risk of receiving a really bad review.


Don't get me wrong. I'm not looking for bad reviews. I don't want Marina Melee to get panned. I put years of my life, and a lot of my heart into writing my story--George's story--because it's important to me. There's deeper meaning than what's at the surface of the fictional tale and the fictional island. There is a São Jorge and George Marshall, a Kenny, LaQuisha, Jim Tudor, Albie, and all the rest exist, some of them in real life and some in my imagination, a compilation of many people I've met along the way. I want the reader to be transported to my island and get to know my friends, to share in and enjoy their madcap misadventures! I don't just want family and friends to read, either.


Once we're published and we put our work out there for the whole world to read, we're taking the risk that some won't like it. That means you've reached beyond the borders of those you know. As I've told other writers who've shared their angst over bad reviews, "Congratulations! You've moved out of the circle of family and friends."
 

The other part of that is to not respond to bad reviews. Don't defend or explain your work. Either the readers "get it" or they don't. Not every story is everyone's cup of tea. For now, I'll say "Hurray!" again. This critiquer got it! He fully understood what my novel is about! Clearly, I achieved what I intended. Is Marina Melee similar to Herman Wouk's Don't Stop the Carnival? You bet! I started with the working title, "Carnival Ain't Stop Yet," fully intending my novel to be an homage to Wouk's wonderful story. I set out to write the updated version of a man in mid-life crisis looking for answers in a bottle of rum on a tropical island. George's journey parallels Norman's in many ways, but with some distinct differences...particularly the ending (you'll have to read them both to find out how they end!) Whether it's Amerigo, São Jorge, St. Thomas, or any other Caribbean island, the message, the story, is the same: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

 
Post Card of Charlotte Amalie Harbor, probably from around
the time Herman Wouk wrote Don't Stop the Carnival.
(postcard courtesy of Ronnie Lockhart)


Don't Stop the Carnival was written "decades ago": 1965 to be exact. Almost a half century ago. As George hears over and over again throughout Marina Melee, "it [Don't Stop the Carnival] is the Bible for expats in the Caribbean." That novel can tell you all you need to know about island life, then and now. Technology has improved. Cell phones, The Weather Channel, and mega-cruise ships have changed the landscape some, but the charm, the insanity, and the warmth of the people remains the same.

 
Charlotte Amalie today. (Photo courtesy of M. Drobnik)


Is my story really an homage, or just a cheap rip-off? I'll let the readers decide. If a one-star review gets people to read Carnival and Marina Melee to compare and see for themselves, that's fine by me. The stories are similar, but that's because the experience of anyone running away to the islands to escape their life today is similar to what Norman Paperman faced 50-years ago. If I'd wanted to avoid comparisons, I certainly wouldn't have mentioned Norman Paperman and Carnival as often as I did. I hope those references lead to a new generation of Wouk-readers! And I couldn't leave out my favorite characters from Carnival, the Sea Witches. They represent an entire group of young islanders with a zest for life that remains unchanged through the decades, from Wouk's time in St. Thomas, to my own at that age in the 80s, to my generation's kids today. A group similar to the Witches lived there when Wouk was in St. Thomas (his Amerigo) and they're there today, enjoying their own crazy adventures. On São Jorge, I morphed them into the Sand Witches because I like the pun. I didn't try to pull a fast one. The trio acknowledges that their moniker, the Sand Witches, comes from Wouk's Sea Witches. Again, it's paying respect to the timelessness of Wouk's Amerigo and its inhabitants.

 
Click HERE to go to Don't Stop the Carnival on Amazon.


Yes, Marina Melee is similar to Don't Stop the Carnival. As I was writing it, I hoped readers would see the similarities, would see the underlying message, the more things change the more they stay the same, and would recognize this as my tip-of-hat to Wouk for his masterpiece that is still considered "the bible for expats in the Caribbean."

Given my reviewer's comments, I think succeeded.

 

 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

FLASHBACK: Homecoming in the VI

CARNIVAL SPECIAL!!
 
In honor of St. Thomas Carnival 2013, I'll be giving away a copy  Marina Melee to a random commentor to this site (leave a comment below to enter to win!) AND electronic versions of Marina Melee are FREE to download from April 20-27, 2013!!

Leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win a copy of Marina Melee
or
Go to www.swashwords.com to download your free electronic copy!
Offer valid April 20-27, 2013

Drawing for the winner of the print version of Marina Melee will be on Sunday 4/28/13

April 2013

I've disappeared for a few weeks--sorry about that! Things here are hectic, what with the semester winding down, book signings at the boat show (which I'll blog about in Waterblogged later this week), agility, and my own studies as I complete an online TESOL certification class (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

This week in the TESOL class, one of my assignments is to write an essay about an experience (something pleasurable, having difficulty liking someone, or a sad event) using a variety of words to describe the emotions involved, and being careful to select words with the most accurate nuances to reflect how I felt.

After much thought--really, nothing really inspiring in the assignment--I decided on the first option, something pleasurable. The word pleasurable, to me, reflects a calm, soothing, enjoyable experience. Something pleasing. Nothing pleases me more than going home to St. Thomas. I always feel better when that plane lands and I see Brewers Bay, UVI, and step out of the plane into that lovely blast of hot tropical air. (I'm deliberately omiting the smell of the ever-malfunctioning airport wastewater treatment plant...I'll just pretent the wind is blowing offshore when I arrive.)

To help me recall the emotions of my homecomings, I reread my blog post from our last visit in June 2011 (has it been that long? Yikes! Time for another visit!) The words and memories brought on a wave of nostalgia and I decided that was worthy of a repost. So, here it is...a walk down memory lane to St. Thomas and homecoming.


My "Alma Mater by the Sea," the University of the Virgin Islands

June 2011

Matt and I are having a great time catching up with old friends and meeting new ones as we get ready for Monday's book signing. Whenever I've been away from my adopted home for too long, I worry that people will have forgotten me, I'll have forgetten people, and it will all be different - I'll be a tourist.

Within minutes of arriving, I knew I'd worried needlessly. Something happens to my heart and mind when I see the western tip of St. Thomas from the plane, my soul breathes a sigh of contentment. (Yes, that sounds corny, but it's true. I can feel a sense of peace wash over me.) By the time the wheels touch down on the end of the runway, and I'm looking at the familiar and comfortable sights of the Willie Mac, the UVI dock, and then the MacLean Marine Science Center, I know I'm home.

The first thing I do when I arrive home, is say hello to my "adopted" father, Patrick - the father of Donna, my "twin" - as our professors called us during our college days. No matter how long I'm away or how many times I change hair length or color, Patrick recognizes me immediately and greets me with a hug. Welcome home.

Catching up with the Sabinos and Roy on our first night in, I felt like I'd been away on vacation for five years, and was now back where I've always been meant to be. Chatting with Sean and Carol at the "new" Pirate's Chest was like continuing an ongoing conversation without skipping a beat in the intervening years, and entering the Radio One studios for the VI Charter Yacht League's radion show, "On the Water" with Erik Ackerson had me flashing back to the old Radio One over the Marianne store, hosting EAST's "Naturally Speaking" show with Julie on Tuesday mornings while Tex, Nicky, and Leo watching from the booth, and sitting in with Fatty's "Marine Scene" show early on Saturday mornings, shivering in the tundra-like new studio in Frenchtown.

Later, we "crashed" a beach wedding to spend time with Geoffrey--just another day in St. Thomas. Driving down to the Marine Science building and visiting with Steve was like returning to my "real" life, the time since I left just a tangent I ran off onto. I'll get back on my true path soon.

I can't express what a relief it is to me to know that, no matter how much things change in my home, the fact that it is still home doesn't change. The book signings are an exciting event that I'm looking forward to, and I'm thrilled with the interest and support of friends old and new. Nicole kicked into her ever-efficient PR mode and hooked me up with the right people to get some short-notice publicity, thus the radio show with Erik, event notices in the Island Trader, and the fabulous article that appeared in this morning's St. Croix Source (thanks, Lynda!).

http://stcroixsource.com/content/arts-entertainment/showcase/2011/06/26/st-thomian-returns-first-novel

With a welcoming embrace like that, how could anyone NOT think that the Virgin Isands are the most warm, friendly, and accepting place in the world? As George learns upon his arrival in Sao Jorge, saying "good morning" goes a long way toward becoming part of the fabric of island life. Once you're woven into it, you may not be from here, but you're here now. Stay a while and you're one of us, forever more.

Welcome home.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Trickle-up Responsibility?

Yes, most of the memes that make their way around social media are trite and superficial, but I loved this one that I first say in Spanish on a Facebook page for Puerto Rico.





Here's my quickie version in English. I apologize for any errors in translation, but you get the idea.





Does it give a too-simple solution to complex problems? Sure. Maybe. But wouldn't it be great if everyone took personal responsibility for these little things? We've seen trickle down economics doesn't work. Maybe we should give trickle up personal responsibility a try?


Friday, March 22, 2013

Addendum

And while we're talking about the value of a liberal education (the topic of the previous post)....



From: www.RealAmericanLiberal.blogspot.com

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

ON THE "EDUCATED, LIBERAL ELITE" or Why Critical Thinking Skills are so Critical


I've had enough! I know I'm not alone. If I hear one more ridiculous claim about the vast left-wing conspiracy at colleges and universities across the country to brainwash young minds into being 'liberals', I'm going to cry--as soon as I'm done laughing over the stupidity of that statement.

Who in the world started THAT ridiculous piece of tripe? Let's consider the argument: Most "liberals" are college educated, most college professors are liberals, therefore, the professors brainwash students to become liberal thinkers.

Wow! I want to meet the brilliant mastermind behind THAT plan. Anyone who can organize such a huge effort and get vast numbers of “radical, left-wing academics” to work together should be in charge of our military and our government because if you can make that happen, you can obviously coordinate ANYTHING.

I guess the same conspiracy theorists who thought up this one have never heard of Okkam's Razor. That's a theorem that says if there are multiple possible explanations for something the simplest one is probably true. Hmmmm--could it be a vast, nationwide, left-wing conspiracy to brainwash millions of young adults, or that a quality education that teaches critical thinking skills results in the ability to THINK? Which could possibly be the simpler, saner, and more reasonable explanation?


The primary objective of a good education, at any level, is not to have students memorize facts and figures, but to give them problem solving skills. Much of elementary and high school is memorizing because we have to start with some basic vocabulary and concepts. But memorizing and learning are two different things--memorizing can help learning, but parroting back the correct words isn't necessarily comprehending what they mean, or being able to apply those concepts to other areas.

A monkey can memorize which buttons to push to fly a spacecraft without understanding how the rockets work; rats memorize mazes all the time. Memorization is not a higher level cognitive function. Rote memorization results in blind agreement with (and obedience to) what you've been told is the answer. That amounts to unquestioningly towing the party line, regardless of whether it makes sense or not because you were told that was the "right" answer. As Rush tells his listeners, "You don't have to try to figure out what to think, I'll tell you what to think." What he really means, is that if you gather and analyze all the information to see if the arguments are valid, you'd come to a different conclusion.

Memorizing is the first step  in the learning process, but it isn't the whole process. After that, you have to understand what those words mean, then apply them, then analyze them to draw conclusions and synthesize that information into a broader context. THAT is critical thinking. It's a higher level in the learning process--one that our brains aren't even wired for until we're in our late-teens or early-20s.

Critical thinking is a process to find answers, as opposed to being given the answer. Critical thinking is learned, particularly through the sciences and mathematics. These disciplines are based on problem-solving to discover answers, not on being told the answer. This is the kind of thinking the Texas GOP wanted to ban from being taught in schools because it results in students "questioning" their beliefs. If by beliefs, they mean misperceptions, fallacies, misinformation and lies, they're correct.

I don't see anything wrong with questioning those things. How can anyone truly and wholeheartedly believe in something that won't stand up to analysis? I would think if you truly believe something to be true, you'd want it questioned again and again and again. The more times you demonstrate that something is not wrong, the stronger the proof that it is right.

Oh, wait...that describes the scientific method, the ultimate critical thinking tool! Scientists continuously try to prove that their belief, their hypothesis about something, is wrong. They question it in every way possible. Every time we demonstrate that a hypothesis is not wrong, we gain evidence that it is correct. Because there are an infinite number of variables that can affect the outcome, we can rarely say we've "proven" anything,  but with more and more evidence showing it isn't wrong, the slimmer the possibility that it is, i.e., the more certain we can be that our answer is right.
The Scientific Method = Evidence-based Problem Solving using Critical Thinking
 

Without questioning, without attempting to disprove one's beliefs, there is no support for those beliefs. They are just opinions. Scientists work on solid, measurable evidence. That's what students are taught in science classes as part of their "liberal" education. A real education doesn't tell students the answers. It gives them the tools they need to find the answers. A well-educated person doesn't have all the answers, but they have the ability to identify the real questions, find the resources to help answer those questions, the mental wherewithal to evaluate those resources to determine if they're factual or opinion-based, and the ability to work through the data and information to come up with the best answer to the problem. It's a lot of work.

Is it any surprise that the 'educated liberal elite' are more left-leaning than those who don't, can't, or won't take the time and effort to critically consider and analyze the issues? Not at all. If you've learned critical thinking skills and learned to differentiate fact from opinion, hypothesis from hype, you will apply those skills in your life. The simplest answer to why a preponderance of college-educated people are more middle or left-leaning in their political views is that they've learned how to think through issues and come up with logical conclusions based on factual information. Rather than believe what they're told by radio and TV pundits--from either side of the political divide--they question all of them, investigate, sort fact from fiction, and reason from opinion. The conclusions drawn from actually researching the issues don't tend to fall nicely and neatly into any one party-line. Particularly not the party line that tells us "this is the right answer, if you question it, you're unpatriotic" or worse yet (in their sad little minds), "a liberal." 

That would be the same party that tells us smaller government is good–after they took the deficit to record numbers and expand the government into the largest bureaucracy in the history of the US between 2000 and 2008. No one with the capability for abstract thought could reconcile those words and actions. Of course any sane, rational person would question the discrepancy between their words and deeds. How gullible do you have to be to believe someone who says they "stand for middle-class Americans and small town folks" while those same Americans were being evicted from their houses while big financial institutes were bailed out and their executives rewarded with trips and bonuses? (And before any of my right-leaning friends take offense, bear in mind, the political spectrum is a continuum. You may interpret your position as "right" but I'd be willing to bet you aren't on that end of the spectrum arguing to abolish critical thinking skills, dismantle education, or put creationism in the science classroom. In today's world, that makes you a moderate, and by some GOP accounting, it makes you a flaming liberal!)

I don't believe a college education makes anyone smarter. There are many fields of study where rote memorization is sufficient and many people in those fields have never developed critical thinking skills. It doesn't mean they don't possess knowledge, skills, or expertise in their field. What thinking critically and a quality education give us, is not just information but the ability to acquire it, understand it, analyze it, and apply it, regardless of the discipline. That takes time, effort and practice. It takes time to go beyond the sound-bite on the news shows, to look at congressional voting records, to locate legislation, to read and understand it, to see how it's being interpreted and applied. It's hard work, not of a physical kind, but of an intellectual kind. And it's time consuming. It's so much easier and faster to believe that chain e-mail, to unquestioningly follow party lines, to only read sources that are "approved" or sponsored by your preferred party, and to believe that there are only two answers to any issue: "with us” or “against us".

I'm sick of the unfounded, fear-based attacks on intelligence and education. Do you think there could be a correlation between the GOP's increasing attacks on education and our ever-falling rank in the world in science and math? Of course there is. We need to value education and learning rather than perpetuate the myth of "common sense." Common means average, our country deserves more than mediocre.
"Common" would be right there in the middle, where most people are.
Wouldn't uncommon sense, as in the above average type really be what we'd want out of an education?
 

Let's hear it for intelligent people who would rather work hard to discover the truth and the best answers, even when those may not be popular or simple, even when they may be frightening. We should look up to those who aren't afraid to base their answers on facts rather than opinion and emotion, and who are willing to change their views when more and better information becomes available. Let's hope our country has the good sense to stop seeing bull-headedness as a strength. Let's promote critical thinking, rather than obstinance as a virtue in our elected officials. Does anyone really believe that an entire political platform based on "whatever the other side says, wants, or does, we oppose it regardless of the facts" is in the best interest of anyone other than their own little egos. Really? We're smarter than that, aren't we?