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Friday, October 12, 2012

POV = Point of View...What is it?

This week in F2K we are studying POV, which is writerese for Point of View.  What's that, you might ask.  When you write fiction, you have a decision to make before you ever set a word on the screen or paper.  You must decide whose voice is speaking.  Who is the one who is presenting the ideas here?  

There are several POV's available to writers.  The most common is called 3rd Person Narrative.  This is easily recognized by the pronouns being used.  Most 3rd Person Narratives use the pronouns  he, she,  and it.   One character usually tells the story.  This can be a live or inanimate character.  I've seen pencils be the protagonist, or "good guy" in stories, and very effectively, too.  An example of this POV is from my novel "Door In Time":


John and Sarah listened with amazement as the strange young man John had just rescued from his cornfield told an unbelievable tale of time travel beginning in 2007 and culminating in 1887.  John and Sarah exchanged looks of disbelief mixed with compassion for the distress the young people appeared to be suffering.  The young man’s speech was strange, using words like “bogus” and “cruised”. The young people’s clothing was strange, with pants cut off above the knee and shirts of strange fabrics, and they had talked of strange gadgets earlier, such as a cell phone, computer, microwave ovens. Sarah stated she thought the kids were practicing witchcraft and was afraid, but John sensed that they thought they were telling the truth, even though he believed they must be delusional or crazy.  How could they possibly believe in time travel?  What was going on here?

In this paragraph, which is actually 3rd person omniscient, meaning that more than one character's thoughts are known, John and Sarah's thoughts are shown.

Contrast that paragraph with the following paragraph, also from my novel:

“Well, when I got up this morning, it was August 23, 2007.  I was at my home in Wichita, Kansas.  My friend, Randy, called to see if I wanted to get together to find a baseball game or something.  We picked up Charity at her home and cruised around the city park.  We noticed this old building that seemed abandoned, and decided to explore it.  Inside, we found papers that said the place was an old time travel service.  We didn’t believe there was such a thing, but when we couldn’t find Randy, we began searching for him.  He had gotten separated from us while searching the different rooms of the building. We came across this gate that had a sign reading Gateway Time Portal.  We passed through this gate together and suddenly found ourselves in your cornfield.  I know it sounds really bogus, but that’s the truth.  I don’t know how exactly we got here, but we came here to find Randy.  Now he’s disappeared again, and we don’t know how to get home.  I’m sorry if we have caused you any problems.  As soon as we find Randy, we’ll try to return home and not bother you again.”

This last paragraph was written in 1st person narrative.  Notice the frequent use of the pronouns "I, we, he, and she."  This paragraph is told from the POV of Josh Peterson, the protagonist in my novel.  When you write from this POV, you must be ever cognizant of the fact that you cannot know what is in the thoughts of the other characters.  You can write what you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel, but you are not privy to the thoughts of others, only your own thoughts.

Another POV that is commonly used is the 2nd person POV.  With this voice, you are telling what the reader is feeling.  This is one of the hardest to write, at least for me, because it is so easy to slip unconsciously into first or third person.  An example of this style is:

You wake with a start.  You see the light coming through the window, splashing across your bed and onto the opposite wall.  You feel the warmth of the sun as it shines on your face.  Listening, you hear the sounds of pigs, chickens and cattle feeding from their troughs.  The sounds and smells of breakfast cooking assault your nose, and your belly growls in response.  You sit up in bed, and pain slashes through your consciousness and throbs in your head, bringing back memories of the night before. Oh, why did you stay out so late, and why did you mix whiskey and beer?  And for Pete's Sake, why did you drink so much?

There are other voices that can be used, but these are the most common ones used in writing today.  Which do you prefer?  The important thing to remember is that you should remain consistent in your story.  

Don't start out with 1st or 2nd person and switch back and forth between the two.  Don't throw in some 3rd person POV just for variation.  This will only confuse your reader and label you as an amateur.  

For each story, pick one POV and stick to it throughout the story.  If you need to switch, then go back to the beginning and rewrite the story from the new POV. 

Consistency is the key.

Happy writing!

Friday, October 5, 2012

All Eight Senses?

We are taught in F2K that there are actually eight senses: sight, taste, smell, hearing, touch, space, time, and the unknown.  Lesson 2 in F2K is all about the senses.  We learn how to "show" the senses, rather than naming and "telling" them.  What does this mean?

If I say "I saw the boat on the water," it's easy to understand, but "yawn", so boring!  That is telling.  It's the way we are taught to write in grammar school.

Now, if I take the same sentence and "show" it: "The sails billowed in the gentle breezes as the sailboat skipped over the waves toward the open sea," it is much more visual and more interesting.  Which sentence do you prefer to read?  This is the kind of sentence we teach in F2K.  More description, without actually naming the senses involved.

You can show more than one sense in a sentence.  The sentence "I saw the boat on the water," does not evoke any senses except sight.  The showing sentence, however, evokes both sight and possibly smell and touch.  We smell the sea, we feel the wind on our skin.  Much more interesting, the second sentence is preferable to read.

Ok, so what about those three extra senses?  Where do they come in?  If  you are standing on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, you are going to have a huge feeling of space.  A sentence about a clock ticking, for example, would evoke a sense of time passing.  And a good mystery or thriller novel, will definitely bring out that sense of the unknown.  How we write these sentences and stories will affect our readers interest level immensely.

I love to read books and stories that "show".  I want to feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck as I read a thriller with a feeling of suspense and the unknown.  I want a description of satin sheets to make me "feel" the smoothness and slipperiness of those sheets.  And I want to read about puppies with that softness and puppy smell that goes along with baby dogs.

As writers, we must grow up from those baby steps we took in our writing.  We must stop telling with those simple but boring sentences.  We need to expand our horizons, and the horizons of our readers and write descriptions that will bring out all eight of our senses.

We must show our readers what we are seeing, feeling, tasting and all the other senses in our writing.  

Happy writing!

Crazy weekend!

Today, I start a 4 day weekend.  I have worked for the past three evenings, usually getting home around 9 p.m.  I was up until midnight working on mentoring duties in F2K, then up again at 7:30 this morning.  I am planning the Paparazzi Open House for tomorrow, as well as getting "stuff" ready for a yard sale in the morning.  I'll start babysitting tonight for two granddaughters, and we have the usual Church, meals and housework to do.  Crazy!

I tend to double book myself with activities every weekend.  Sometimes it's not always my fault.  I'll have a nice relaxing weekend all planned out, then Dennis will come home and ask me to do something else with him.  Usually, I just dump my plans and go with him, since he is only home on weekends, but occasionally, I am compelled to keep my original plans and Dennis gets delegated to fit in the slots that are left over.  I hate doing that, because our time is so precious together.

I have so many things I want to discuss today.  But to include them all in this post would be nuts.  So I will just make this one short and post another later with another topic.

Have a nice day.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Entrepreneur? Moi?...

I started a new home business a couple of months ago.  I was browsing around on Facebook (a bad habit I have when procrastinating).  I saw a post by a lady I didn't know.  She was talking about a party she was having for Paparazzi.  

I had never heard of this company.  Prior to that day, the only Paparazzi I had ever heard of had definitely negative connotations, as in teams of photographers hounding celebrities for candid, unauthorized photos that they sell to cheap rag magazines.  So I was not really impressed by the name.

But something kept calling me back to that post.  I must have scrolled my timeline several times, going back to that post.  I had been looking for a direct marketing business that I could do that would be a little different than the Avon, Tupperware, candle peddling businesses that I knew from our area.  I had sold Sarah Coventry jewelry years ago and loved doing it.  This might be just up my alley! 

So, I sent the lady a message.  We chatted on Facebook about it for a few minutes, and then I asked, "So how do I go about signing on with this company?"  I was hooked.  I visited the website, read everything I could find about it, and visited with Holly, the independent consultant I had first contacted.  Before the day was over, I was an independent consultant and had ordered my beginning sales kit.

I took the jewelry to my workplace and showed a piece or two every day to my co-workers.  I had a couple of bookings right away.  People were buying the jewelry faster than I could order it.  I thought, wow, this is so cool.

I know not every day will be smooth sailing.  I have had disappointments in this business, mostly because people already in the business before I started had already booked the largest events in my area, leaving me with only a few smaller events, and the parties I could book.  But I absolutely love it when someone asks, "do you still sell the jewelry?" and ask to see it.  I rarely show the jewelry but what someone doesn't buy some of it, if not for themselves, then for gifts.

With the holidays coming up, I'm hoping for some great days ahead.  I'm offering special hostess rewards for this month, since this is my birthday month.  I've booked some Christmas shows already, and I'm always watchful for new people to sign on to be consultants themselves.

We have city wide garage sales coming up next week, and I'm going to have my sign out in front of my house, offering special bonuses for anyone who buys 5 pieces of jewelry or books a party.  We can't lower our prices...every piece of jewelry sells for $5 + tax, except for the Starlet Shimmer pieces for little girls, which sell for $1 + tax, but we can offer free pieces for door prizes and sales incentives.

I have booked the annual Clyde Christmas Craft Show for my Paparazzi, and I'm looking forward to showing it to people then.  I had a booth at the Clyde Watermelon Festival, and sold close to $200 worth in the morning hours.   

I'm always open. Just give me a call, or do a search for my page DixiesDesigns on Facebook.  Send me a private message on Facebook if you'd like more information.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

F2K Free Fiction Writing Course

We started another session of F2K a week ago, and today, the first lesson was posted.  Due to computer problems, mostly connectivity, I had to ask a fellow mentor to post my assignment for me.  But, it is working better now, so hopefully, the problem was just a temporary glitch.

F2K has been around since before 2000, and is growing by leaps and bounds.  I don't know how many students we have this year, but we have nine classrooms this session, and each mentor had over 60 students sign up to participate.  Of course, we usually lose a few for various reasons.  Some forget they signed up, some get lost in cyberspace and can't find the link after they accidentally delete the email registering them for the class.  Some just change their minds, and some let life get in the way.  

Some of those who drop out return again in another session.  We have three to four sessions a year, with one starting in January or February, one in May or thereabouts, and one in the fall.  We are currently in the fall session (obviously) and it will run for seven weeks.

The first week is always Orientation Week.  That's where the students mill around and get acquainted with the site and each other.  They ask a ton of questions and always get an answer from either another returning classmate or a mentor.  We pride ourselves on never leaving any post an "orphan."

We are, just today, starting the second week, and our first Lesson has been posted.  The activity is always crazy and busy.  Many of our students are return students, and so they already know the ropes.  They are a huge  help in answering questions fielded from the brand new beginning students.

I enjoy the first lesson, which is about re-introducing ourselves through the eyes of one of our characters.  This can be very entertaining, very sad, and sometimes, very original.  I've seen inanimate objects be the characters doing the introductions.  It opens up an entirely unique perspective on the objects lying around us.

If you love to write, whether it be in a blog, letters to family members, or newspaper journalism, this course can help you to open up your creativity another notch.  It's entirely free, unless you sign up for the mentor support edition, then there is a modest fee attached.

The difference between the two editions is that with the free session, the mentors offer feedback only on the first lesson...in other words, this week's lesson only.  From that point on, the peers offer feedback to each other.  The mentors are always on the scene, monitoring and answering questions and offering comments, but not the line by line feedback that will be received in the Mentored Support Edition every week, every lesson.

It's too late to sign up for this session, but if you are interested, let me know and I can give you more specific information on how to sign up for the next session that will probably start in January, 2013.

It's not unusual for students to return for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and more times.  It's just that much fun. Sometimes the students morph, just as I did, from student to intern, to mentor.  Our labors are all volunteer.  We get the satisfaction of helping writers to be better writers.  That may not sound like much to the uninformed, but to those of us who have done it, it's very addictive.

Let me know if you are interested.  I'd love to get  you started on your way to a writing career.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Ugly Truth About Canadian Health Care by David Gratzer, City Journal Summer 2007

The Ugly Truth About Canadian Health Care by David Gratzer, City Journal Summer 2007

I'm afraid those in the USA who wish for Canadian Health Care Laws here, have not really looked at it thoroughly and objectively.  I've really heard nothing good about Canadian Health Care from Canadians.  They want our Health Care as at present, as flawed as it may be, they feel it is better in the US.  We are getting closer to their policies.  I believe we will regret it very soon.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jason's surgery


I really must apologize for leaving everyone hanging from my last post.  It has been a very busy time at my house.

Becky and I followed Jason and his wife, Jackie, down to the hospital in Topeka on May 4.  His appointment time was scheduled for 12:30 p.m. but he was to be there by 11:00 a.m. for check-in.  However, it was 4:45 p.m. before they finally took him in to surgery.  A very long wait without food or drink for him, was followed by an even longer wait because they wouldn’t let him eat anything afterward either until they were sure everything was stable.

After the surgery, the doctor called Jackie, Becky and me in to explain what he had done, and we watched a xray video showing the procedure.  We were able to visualize the blockage to his descending artery, which was 99%.  The healthy arterial flow showed up as at least pencil diameter, but the blocked area was as thin as a human hair in diameter.

The doctor said it was very fortunate that he had surgery when he did, because he was most assured that Jason would have had a massive heart attack which would have damaged a good portion of his heart if he hadn’t had surgery.  He emphasized that Jason would need to take medication for the rest of his life, and would definitely need to change his eating and exercise habits.

He told Jason that he should avoid all pop, because it is “poison” to the heart.  He didn’t really restrict his sodium intake, which surprised me a little, but he did state, use it moderately, if at all.  Jason will need to cut back on the huge amount of carbohydrates and fried and processed foods that he had been eating, and watch portion sizes.

He also stressed the need for more exercise.  Jason drives a truck, hauling hazardous materials, which means many places require the driver stay within 25 feet of the truck at all times.  That makes it very difficult to get any sustainable exercise, unless they run laps around the truck.

The stent they put in the heart where the blockage had occurred seems to have been a success so far.  Jason has much more energy, is not getting short of breath any more, and is back to his usual workaholic ways.  He was forbidden to drive his truck until May 14, so he is anxiously waiting for the chance to get back to work then.  In the meantime, he is going nuts not having anything to do.

He had Dennis’ pickup at his house, so he completely detailed it, repairing a few parts, and replacing some.  He cleaned it all out, which was a huge job, and washed and waxed it.  That helped him use up some of his energy. 

I want to thank everyone who kept Jason in their prayers, his friends for coming to see him or called, and God for keeping him safe and giving him the chance to live a normal, healthy life.  So far, he has lost a few pounds, and is trying to live a more healthy lifestyle.  I pray that he is able to sustain that effort.

There has been a lot of other things going on at our house, but I’ll save that for another post.  I want to wish all mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow.  I will be working tomorrow morning so will be going to church tonight.

Happy Mother’s Day, and Happy Graduation Day to our seniors.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Family Crisis


I’ve had a peaceful week here at home with just my dogs, and an occasional visit from my grandkids and daughter.  Did some writing, played some computer games, cleaned some house, and played with my dogs.  Even watched some television.

So it was like a rude awakening to get a call from my son, Jason tonight.  I knew he had been having some problems breathing, and was getting tired easily.  Becky and I had been urging him to see a doctor.  Finally, he did.

He saw a doctor, tests were run, and today, he got a call from the doctor that he was to have a stent placed in his artery tomorrow morning in Topeka.  His artery was almost 100% blocked.  They urged him to start taking aspirin to ward off a heart attack, and gave him instructions to follow starting at midnight tonight.

His wife, Jackie, will drive him down to Topeka in her car tomorrow, and I will follow in my car, with Becky riding with me.  It might have saved some gas money to ride together, but this would give us greater freedom to come and go as we pleased.

I have notified my mom, and we have notified Jason’s brother and sister.  I also messaged Dennis’ sister and, of course, Dennis, who is stuck out on the road with his truck.  He feels terrible that he can’t make it back before the surgery.  But he may be needed to help bring Jason home later on.

After losing Teresa thirteen years ago, this is especially frightening to me.  I cannot even imagine losing another of my children.  The thought is incomprehensible.   It is just becoming easier to live with Teresa being gone.  How can I start all over with another child gone?

So, if I seem a little distracted this week, I hope you will understand why.  I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.  But I trust in my God, that he will protect Jason and bring him through this crisis.  I trust that he will give our family the strength to be strong for Jason.  And I believe that everything will be ok.

Now, I must get to bed, so I can be alert to drive to and through Topeka tomorrow.  It’s going to be a very long day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A to Z Challenge Completed--On to the next challenge!


April is over for this year, and so is the A to Z Challenge, wherein I post every day on a subject starting with the letter corresponding with the day of the month.  For example, on April 1, the alphabet started with A.  So I posted my blog beginning with A on that day.  The 2nd of April was B, and so forth.

I don’t want to lose the momentum I started, so I hope to continue posting every day.  I plan to use my writing idea book to write either short essays, post recipes, pictures, or short flash fiction pieces.  I hope you will continue to read my ramblings.  And please feel free to comment.

Monday, April 30, 2012

ZZZZZZZs




Wow!  The last day for the A to Z Challenge is here.  I checked my dictionary to find words and topics for the letter Z.  I finally decided to use the universal symbol for sleep—ZZZZZ.

As babies, we sleep almost twenty four hours a day.  We awaken briefly for physical needs, eating and other bodily functions, but otherwise, we require a tremendous amount of sleep.  It is so rare that we see a newborn baby’s eyes open, that we announce it to anyone within earshot, “Hey, come here! Zoe’s got her eyes open!  Look!  Isn’t she beautiful?”

Gradually, babies are awake more and more and for longer periods.  Before we know it, we are hoping they will fall asleep and sleep all night, so we can get some rest, too.  Mom’s walk around like zombies, big dark circles under their eyes, and move slowly.  Fatigue drains everyone’s energy.

When children start school, it becomes a nightly battle to get them to bed early, especially in the early fall, after a long summer of staying up late at baseball games, camp-outs, and other summer activities.  Once the new bedtime routine is established, most kids are ready for bed at the designated time.  Then is when Mom and Dad enjoy a few moments of alone time together before they, too, hit the sack.

Teenagers go through a phase where their sleep routine is off kilter.  They stay up late, and want to sleep late.  Without motivation, some teens will sleep well past noon, and want to stay up past midnight.  Once they get jobs and are responsible adults, they are more content with normal sleep routines.

If Mom or Dad work the “graveyard shift” catching a few ZZZZs becomes even more important.  Working night shifts disrupts the normal circadian cycle of human sleep.  It is not normal for humans to stay up all night and sleep all day.  We are not, normally, nocturnal creatures.  And society does not always allow for nocturnal work.  Receiving a waking phone call from a telemarketer or political action committee wanting donations, does not endear the caller to the victim of the phone call, who must then try to fall asleep and get some decent undisturbed rest.  These people must often turn off the ringer on their phones and hang “Do Not Disturb” signs on their front door in order to eliminate the distractions.

As we grow older, we seem to need more sleep again, but the urge to close our eyes comes at odd times.  Mid mornings, mid afternoons, and early evenings are frequent calling cards for Mr. Sandman.  And if we can’t sleep because we are at work or driving, it can even become dangerous.

At the nursing home, the residents nap after meals, and are often ready for bed by seven or eight o’clock.  ZZZs are frequent and do not normally last more than a couple of hours.

Sleep deprivation affects our entire body and all of it’s functions.  Mental acuity drops significantly if insufficient rest is obtained. Digestive function is affected, and night workers often feel as though they have a “flu bug.”  Heartburn and gastric upsets are common. Lack of sleep can cause respiratory problems as well, with frequent bouts of bronchitis, colds, and pneumonia.

Those with chronic disease are often afflicted with sleep deprivation.  Arthritis, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and those afflicted with hiatal hernias and esophageal reflux disease may find it more comfortable to sleep in a recliner rather than bed.  Spouses of sleep apnea victims may report that neither spouse gets the sleep they need.  Snoring and sudden respiratory lapses cause great concern to those listening to the irregular respiratory patterns.

Pain is one of the leading causes of sleep deprivation.  The distractions of daily living can help keep pain at bay, or at least help make it more bearable.  But trying to sleep in pain is almost impossible.  Without distractions, pain rises to the forefront and will not be ignored, without medication or other pain relief methods.

Dreams can also interrupt deep sleep, especially nightmares.  Sleep occurs in layers.  Some sleep is deep, in which there are no dreams.  Light sleepers often do not get proper rest, because the slightest noise or movements will wake them. The deep sleepers usually feel more rested because there is not the interruption in their sleep.

Another factor in sleep is a condition called tinnitus.  This is the name for a ringing sound heard in the sleeper’s ears.  Sometimes this is caused by certain medications.  But it can be very distracting, to the point of causing hearing loss during the day when it becomes louder than the outside noises.  A doctor should be consulted to find a treatment for tinnitus.  Keeping a fan or tv on will also cause the tinnitus to be less distractive.

So, as you can see, the body needs a lot of good, uninterrupted, deep sleep to be at the best functioning level.   Any alterations of the sleep pattern can result in sluggish behavior, fatigue, and even exacerbations of illnesses.  If you stay up late to watch that favorite movie, and sleep in late in the morning, you will start a habit that will create many problems with health.

Many doctors recommend a brief nap in the afternoon for most adults.  This can be difficult, if your work prevents a break at that time.  On the other hand, if you start a habit of taking a nap, it can be difficult to stay awake during the days when you are working.

All this talk about sleeping has made me drowsy.  I think I’ll go take a nap.  Have a nice day, and get plenty of rest, now, y’hear?




Saturday, April 28, 2012

Yard Sales




Weekends during the spring and summer usually include seeing yard and garage sales in every residential block, in church yards, and the listings in the local newspaper take up an entire column or more.

Back when my kids were little, I went to every yard sale I could.  My kids wore used clothing, because I was not working, and the money had to be stretched as thin as it could be stretched.  They got new clothes for birthdays and holidays, but summers were often spent in shorts and t-shirts or tank tops.

This morning, Dennis took me to Concordia to eat at a restaurant for breakfast.  Usually, I grab a couple of slices of toast and a glass of juice for breakfast, or microwave a frozen breakfast sandwich of sausage, egg and cheese.  Only occasionally do I cook myself a full breakfast.  I’ve just never liked cooking for one.

Anyway, we were driving through Concordia’s residential area to get to the restaurant, and there were yard sales going on.  People were standing in front of makeshift tables laden with used kids’ clothes, small appliances, wall decorations and I even spotted some bicycles and riding toys.

Suddenly that primal urge hit me once again.  I wanted to stop and shop.  I haven’t shopped at garage sales and yard sales for years, because in our old house, we were so terribly crowded with what we already owned, and now in our even tinier new house, there is no room for anything here, either.  Besides, my kids now have kids of their own, and some of them are in the teen years, where under no circumstances would they wear someone else’s cast off clothing.  Heaven Forbid!

So, I don’t really know what I would shop for at these yard sales, but it seemed almost instinctive to stop.  I stifled that urge, however, and we drove on by, not once but twice—once on our way to the restaurant, and once on our way out of town.  What is it about yard sales that attract women so much?  I understand the need for inexpensive baby clothes and equipment and toys.  Have you priced the new stuff in the stores?  Yowza! 

Antique hunters often find rare treasures hidden in the piles of junk sold at yard sales.  Someone who really likes decorating in the style of the 70s and 80s, might find something to put on their walls.  But I don’t fit any of those categories anymore.  So why did I want to stop?

Is there a yard sale gene in our blood? We’ll call it YS1971.  1971 was the year I was married, and first started going to yard sales.  I have had the urge to stop at all yard sales since that time.  How do we cure this disease?  Is there a treatment?

I have had many yard sales in my 40+ years of marriage as well.  I’ve never really made enough money to accomplish anything, but I did get rid of a lot of stuff I no longer needed.  I now have two houses full of stuff that I need to sort through and eliminate.

A new twist to the yard sale is to take a picture of the item you wish to sell, and post it to local buy/sell pages on Facebook.  I’ve seen items snapped up in a matter of seconds after being posted.  Some people think their merchandise is worth almost new prices.  They soon learn that yard salers do not pay almost new prices for used items.  Most items sell for perhaps15% of new cost, or less.

I’m thinking about supplementing my nursing income by placing these free ads on Facebook and getting rid of some things that I have no room for.  I have an antique bedroom dresser and vanity that is in pretty good condition.  I’m going to take a photo of them and post them online.  It’s really the ideal way to get rid of things.  The ads are free, there are no shipping costs, the people who buy the items know me.  They come and pick the item up and we exchange cash.  What’s not to like?

Perhaps the future lies in attending yard sales, buying the best stuff, then selling it again on Facebook?  Hmmmm..I’ll have to think on that for a while.

In the meantime, happy yard sailing! 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Xenophobia



Xenophobia is the strong and unreasonable dislike or fear of people from other countries.  Wow!  There is an epidemic of this in our world today.  Countries and their inhabitants are so paranoid these days about whom they can trust.  Terrorism has created distrust for anyone with skin color and facial features of inhabitants of the Middle East.  Anyone with Latino features is branded an illegal alien, and often the fears are not based on fact.

I imagine a similar situation happened a long time ago in the Biblical times.  When the Tower of Babel was built, everyone left speaking in different tongues.  I can only imagine the distrust and bigotry that started.  And it has continued in this world every since.

I like to think that I’m not a bigot.  I like to think that I give everyone a chance to be a good person, but I know that sometimes that basic mistrust comes out in me when I meet a stranger with a foreign accent, different skin color, and different cultures.  I don’t like that about myself.  It has gotten worse since 9-11, but I really am working on it.

I have made friends with people from other countries online.  That has helped me to realize that there are good people across the ocean.  I realize that life’s experiences have turned many people bitter and mistrusting in the Middle East.  How could we expect them to trust us, when we have dropped bombs on them in the middle of the night?  I’d be wary too. 

But somewhere, somehow, I think we need to work toward a world peace.  It’s not going to be easy.  There are evil people in the world who love to stir up hate and rage and distrust in this world for their own personal gain.  But there are also the peace loving, gentle people, who are weary of all the fighting.  How can we connect with these people?  How can we put the fighting behind us?

Religion has often been the basis for hatred.  As a Catholic, I am taught to love my enemies, to offer the other cheek.  But, I also realize that there are religions that offer “heavenly rewards” for killing those that do not share their beliefs. That scares me.  These same religions claim to be peace-loving, but radicals in their faith follow the violent traditions that have created so much distrust in the world.  How do we know who we can trust?

For now, I try to follow the tenets of my faith.  I try to trust and obey the commandments I learned as a child.  I pray for those who are in harms’ way.  And I pray for a brighter future for mankind.  I pray to not become a Xenophobe.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Writing




Writing has been my passion since I was ten years old and wrote my first short story.  It was the longest story I had ever written, and was loosely based on the story of the Donner party tragedy.

From that point on, my writing was largely fiction.  I loved starting with just one sentence as a starting point, and allowing it to take me places where I had never dreamed of actually going.  I learned to do research about places, so that my stories would be historically and geographically correct.

I took all the writing classes I could in high school, and especially loved a Creative Writing class that was offered my senior year.  I also signed up for Yearbook and the school newspaper.  Anything to be writing was my goal.

In college, I took English Composition I and almost lost my love of writing because of the instructor.  The man who taught my class was a really strange duck, who loved complex compound sentences and considered us simple-minded if we wrote simple sentences.  He had a horrible temper and if someone interrupted his classes or lectures, he would throw books and other objects at them.  I quickly learned not to sit in a direct line with the door to the classroom after several near misses from books flying through the air.  His language was not exactly ideal for teaching young impressionable students either.  I did not get a very good grade in his class, and felt like I was a failure.

The next semester, I took English Composition II and had a lady instructor who was very positive and supportive.  She loved my writing and I made excellent grades.  I got my mojo back and discovered that no teacher can force you to write in a style that does not suit you.  But a good one can reinforce your good style and make it better.

My writing after college was limited to my journaling for a long time, until I started working for the local newspaper.  My love of writing and words blossomed from that point and has never shriveled again.  I wrote a weekly column for the paper under the last editor, and even when he closed the paper, I continued to write my essays for a time.

Writers Village University was just getting started online when I first discovered it in 1998. I joined and still am a member.  A six week free fiction writing course (F2K) was started by WVU, and I took the class three times.  Eventually, I began volunteering as a mentor intern.  I served in that capacity for several sessions, then graduated to a full mentor.  I loved that unpaid job.  Watching new writers sprout from just desiring to write to become accomplished writers is so rewarding.  I just love it.

I’m not certain if there will be another session of F2K because of some personnel problems that have come up, but I really hope there will be.  I love teaching writing.  I love watching people grow from hobby writing to professional writing.  I love seeing my name and my work in print.  I love t he comments that my “fans” make.  They are so supportive.

I love writing.

Volunteering


Volunteering

Being a firm believer in volunteerism, I sometimes get myself spread a little thin.  At one time, back in the mid 1980s, I was an officer in five different organizations.  Doing my volunteer work became a full time job without pay.  I had an office with a huge desk, file cabinets, and all the trappings of a busy business office.  It completely wore me out.

I dropped out of most of the organizations, and took a paying job for several years.  Then I found a better paying job, and progressed from below minimum wage to the pay I’m getting now as a nurse.

When I wasn’t serving as an officer, I was volunteering for service organizations, baking cookies for VA hospitals, teaching religious education for our church youth, and many other duties for charitable organizations.

It is a very rewarding activity.  No, the monetary rewards are not there, but the feeling that I was doing something worth while made me feel very good about myself.

Nowadays, most of my volunteering is limited to my Art Club presidency, and giving monetarily to favorite charities. But I still believe in volunteering time and assistance for good causes.  I enjoy baking cookies and cakes, and often give them to bake sales for organizations. 

Nursing homes are always in need of volunteers.  There are many simple things that can be done to help there.  Our nursing home has an ice cream shop that is open on weekends.  Volunteers are available to serve the ice cream and popcorn on weekends. 

The chapel volunteers help the residents get to church services and deliver Communion to those who cannot attend.   Some volunteers are helping with laundry for those who do not wish their clothing laundered with the general population.   Reading to the residents, doing nail care, shopping errands, and other activities are always appreciated.

So if you have some extra time on your hands, and would like to help, why don’t you mosey on down to your local nursing home and offer your services as a volunteer.  You will meet some lovely people there, and might even run across an old friend.  And you’ll feel good about yourself.  And sometimes that’s the best reward of all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

U-turns




Whenever I see a “No U-Turns” sign on the highway, it really ticks me off.  I mean, why can’t I change my mind?  Isn’t that a woman’s prerogative?  To make a U-turn, I reverse the direction in which I was heading.  If I’m going the wrong way, shouldn’t I correct that?

Sometimes, I’m not necessarily going the wrong way, but I’ve forgotten to do some little detail prior to the trip.  Sometimes those little details are quite important.  I have to be able to fix those omissions.  It’s not every day that I forget to pick up my grandkids at school, but if I do, I’m darned sure going to correct it before I get home!

Sometimes the U-turn involves a larger portion of the pie called Life.  A change in career, a change in marital status (just using this as an example, not planning this one, ok?), a change in health decisions, each can be life-changing.  These U-turns must be thought through thoroughly..goodness, that’s a tongue-twister!

Before we bought the house we are currently living in, we looked at several others.  One was in Clifton, almost right across the street from our old house.  I often sat on my front porch and dreamed of how I was going to decorate it.  That house didn’t work out for us, and we had to make a U-turn in our plans.  Then we found a house in Clyde that we liked, and almost bought it, but the money we were planning to use for it was not as much as we had planned, so once more, we U-turned.

When we did finally find this house, I was almost afraid to sign the papers, fearing that another obstacle would jump up and bite me in the arse, and forcing another U-turn.  But soon we were the proud owners of this tiny little house and were busy sorting and packing to move.

I’ve made many career u-turns also.  For a long time, I worked in the same place, but was suffering from burn-out, a professional disillusionment.  I needed a change of pace, a change of location, or a change of career.  I tried the hospital nursing for a few years.  I liked it, but missed my elderly companions at the nursing home.  Now I’m back with them, and happy.  But my health is falling apart, so another U-turn is fast approaching.

Since I don’t have enough money to retire, I’m looking at other options for a career that is not as physically demanding as nursing.  I’d love to open an art shop, selling art supplies and offering painting lessons, but that would be a risky undertaking.

My other option is to buy an existing newspaper, and work at it.  It would have a certain amount of physical effort involved, by needing to attend many functions to cover them with photos and stories.  But it’s the kind of work I really love to do, and it’s not as financially risky.

So, right now, my U-turn is on hold, while I explore all the options and considerations involved.  I’m still working at my nursing job, but it is becoming more painful by the day.  If there were a position in which I could work at a desk with a computer, I’d be much more comfortable.  But that does not seem to be an option right now.  So I’ll continue as best I can.

In the meantime, if I need to make a U-turn in the road, I’ll do so, watching ahead and behind to make sure the Highway Patrol is not watching me, and that it is safe at that moment to turn around.  I certainly don’t want to have to write another blog post labeled “Under Arrest!”

Monday, April 23, 2012

Times Are Changing


          Times are changing.  But while some things never change, certain aspects of them are different.  I’m talking about teen dances.  I remember in high school, the boys always stood or sat in huddles on one side of the room, watching the girls, and punching each other in the arm while teasing about the girls they liked.  The girls sat on the other side of the room, waiting in frustration to be asked to dance.  Some of them would get exasperated by the boys’ behavior and start dancing with each other.  Eventually, the boys and girls would get together to dance, just about time the dance was scheduled to end.  Then the youngsters were frustrated because the dance was ending so “early”.
          One Saturday evening, we attended a combination birthday party and Hawaiian Luau dance for our granddaughter, who was leaving the nextThursday for Massachusetts to live with her dad and family.  Regan had asked for this dance, because she dearly loves to dance, and thought it would be a good chance to see most of her schoolmates here before she left.
          The dance was scheduled to begin around 8 p.m., but the music  actually started at 7 p.m.  The early music was mostly for the chaperones, the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other younger children, meaning it was country music.  Elijah Jackson was acting as DJ and his computerized setup was working quite well.  There was even a disco ball strobe light in the corner behind him throwing colorful light streaks across the room as it revolved.  It was really kind of cool.
          Most of the early dancing was done by the little ones, from 1 year old to 11 years old.  Some of the adults danced with the tiniest kids, while the teens and tweens sat or stood around on the opposite side of the room.  This was all much the same as when I was that age.
          But there was a difference in this dance.  Instead of dancing, most of the youngsters were talking in small groups here and there, but they were almost all huddled together over cell phones.
Cell phones do not necessarily put off a romantic glow.  They do not encourage verbal interaction between the users.  I’m not sure the texting going on was all about the dance.  I think some of the texting and messages being sent back and forth across the room were probably messages that perhaps Mom and Dad would not approve of.
          But times being the way they are, this type of interaction seems to be the norm rather than the exception.  There were 3 or 4 kids actually dancing on the floor or just off the floor, but they were dancing individually or with people of the same sex.  Actually they were showing each other the latest dance moves, which was quite entertaining.
          The kids were all very well behaved, at least while we were there.  But I wonder if any of them actually danced with other peers, or if it was a big texting session set to music.  The music changed while we were there from the easy going “old folk” music that we enjoyed early in the evening to the Michael Jackson music, and other rock music of this century.  We stayed for about 90 minutes, then came on home.
          Watching the teens texting each other while talking to each other seemed almost bizarre.  A lot of things seem strange lately. 
Technology has developed to such a heightened level, but still almost primitive compared to the inventions of the future to come.  Who knows in what ways we will be communicating in the future?
I’ve heard stories about microchips that will be placed under the skin to keep track of children so they won’t get lost from their parents.  On the surface, this sounds like a good plan, but will these chips be removed as they reach adulthood?  I doubt it.  Will this be a way for big government to keep tabs on everyone?  Will we be losing another freedom? 
Microchips are being developed with our medical histories on them also.  This can be a good thing in an emergency, but what if this gets into the wrong hands?   Who all will know of our medical problems?  Will this knowledge be used against us when applying for work, or for public office?  Big Brother is creeping into our lives so slowly and insidiously, that we are not even aware of it.  It worries me.
I know it sounds like I am a paranoid schizophrenic.  Maybe I am.  But I believe government has changed so that we work for them, and not the other way around, the way it was intended when this country was founded.  I believe we need to keep closer tabs on the people who are keeping tabs on us.
I believe we need to get our lives and our country back on the right track, before we lose it.
I believe I  need to end this article, and get my laundry and dishes done.  Until next time, happy texting!

Shih Tzu Dogs: Starr and Bandit


Shih Tzus

The American Kennel Club breed standard gives the following description of the Shih Tzu breed as a “sturdy, lively, alert toy dog.”  Other attributes described include “a highly valued, prized companion, proud of bearing, with a distinctively arrogant carriage.” Originally from China and Tibet, the breed was bred to be companion dogs.

They do most certainly have an arrogant carriage.  In fact, my two Shih Tzus are almost snobbish at times, ignoring me when they choose, and equally demanding, depending on their desires.  They are affectionate, happy, friendly and with most people, trusting.

If the luxuriously soft double coat of hair is left to grow long, the owner can expect to spend many hours grooming the animal.  Most owners, however, if not desiring to use the creatures as show dogs, are content to keep the coats kept at “puppy length”, with very good results.

Color-wise, the Shih Tzu can be several different colors: white with black, gold, silver, or chocolate markings, but also may be solid in color, ranging from deep black, red, or charcoal gray to pale silver or gold.  My two Shih Tzus are white, with gray, tan and just a touch of black around the eyes and ears.

Shih Tzu dogs were developed with one purpose in mind: to be a companion.  And they are very good at it, too. They take their jobs very seriously.  They make good watch dogs, with excited barking when a stranger comes to the door.  They will make low growling noises if the visitor is not someone they trust, but they are not a vicious breed, and are easily won over by treats or a non-threatening pat on the head.

They love to be pampered.  My two dog, Starr and Bandit, love to have their tummies scratched, and will jump up on my lap or chair, and roll onto their backs, presenting their tummies for a massage.  They are very affectionate, and love to give their owners tongue baths. 

They enjoy constant attention.  Starr and Bandit follow me everywhere around our home, and while I am at work, they sit by the front door and wait patiently until I return, even if I am gone far into the night.

They do not like rules.  They have short attention spans and very selective short memories.  Housetraining is an almost insurmountable challenge to Shih Tzu owners.  They can be trained to use newspapers or pads much easier than they can be trained to go outside.  They will even disobey on purpose if they are not happy with you for some reason.

I got two dogs (both from the same litter) for a reason: to keep each other company while I am working away from home.  Shih Tzu dogs do not like being left alone.  Having two of them is quite entertaining, as they play like puppies, and frolic around the house, making adorable little fake growling noises and  high pitched whines at each other while they are wrestling.

Don’t expect Shih Tzu dogs to do chores, or regular “exercises”.  They get plenty of exercise during their play.  They are not good candidates for obedience school, because they will invariably misbehave during class and if anyone laughs, the dogs feel rewarded, and will remember to do that particular trick the next time they are “performing” for a group.  They are natural-born entertainers.

You don’t train Shih Tzus..Shih Tzus train you.  You will soon learn several things to remember when dealing with your dogs.  Flexibility and compromise are very important.  Your dog may follow your rules for a short time, but only as long as the reward is satisfactory to them.  It all depends on how much your dog wants the payoff at the end of the exercise.

You must exercise firm kindness and always keep a good sense of humor. These dogs are the family clowns.  Their adorable little faces with big black eyes and expressive features will make you laugh just to look at them.  They love to sit or lay on your lap or at least by your feet.  If I want to take a nap in my recliner, I am certain to have both dogs lying on my lap or my feet and taking naps with me.  The warmth of their little bodies is usually quite welcome to me.

As I sit here typing this article, I have Starr sleeping on the floor by my feet, and Bandit is lying across my lap, with her little head resting on my left forearm.  She is quite content to stay that way as long as I am content to leave her there.  Sometimes I do see a little jealousy between the two dogs, who both want to be on my lap at the same time.  At those times, I must be firm and stop their quarrels at once.

They are small dogs, standing 8 to 11 inches tall at the shoulders, and weigh approximately 10 pounds.  They are good with my grandkids, and with most people. They usually live between 12 and 14 years.  They love to run free, but need to be kept on a leash to prevent them from chasing and running in front of cars.  They do tend to jump up on people if not trained that this is not acceptable, and even then, in their excitement they sometimes forget.

I love my Shih Tzus, and don’t know what I’d do without them.
I hope to write future articles about each of my two little doggy clowns. 

Do you have a favorite breed of dog or cat?  I’d love to hear about them.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Rainy Day Activities






Do you get bored on rainy days?  Do your children whine about needing something fun and interesting to do?  Why not try a few of these activities?

1.    Start a game of Monopoly, or other board games.  These can take up a lot of time and with several participants, can be quite challenging.  Charades can be fun too.
2.    Take old Sears or J.C.Penney’s catalogs and turn to the underwear pages.  Choose a full figure to cut out and then go through the catalog and located clothing that will fit.  If you prefer, let the kids draw and color their own outfits for their homemade “paper dolls”.
3.    Watch a nature show together and discuss the differences between species, and how they fit into the ecologies where they live.
4.    Bake cookies or cupcakes, and let the kids decorate them.  Then let the children serve them for a meal, or take them to the local nursing home and donate them for the residents.
5.    Visit a nursing home and let the children get acquainted with some “adopted grandparents.”  This is good for both the residents, who crave children’s company, and for the children, who learn a new respect for the elderly.
6.    Have some seeds and potting soil on hand and let the children plant some flowers and herbs in Styrofoam cups.  Be sure to label them with the name of the flower or herb so you will know how to care for the plant in the early stages.
7.    Read some fables and fairy tales aloud and explore the morals being taught in each story.
8.    Write a song or poem together.
9.    Write a story as a group.  One person will lead with the opening line or two.  The next person picks up the story and adds a few lines, then the next, so on and so forth..then read the story aloud to the group.
10. Draw a picture in the same way, using paper folded several times, letting lines extend down just past the paper fold, so the next artist can find where to continue the drawing.  Figure drawings of people are good subjects for this activity.

There are so many other activities that can be done.  Use your imagination.  Try to include activities that includes all members of the family, rather than just allowing the children to vegetate in front of television cartoons all day.

Take some photos of your day together as remembrances of the occasion.  Start a photo album with your children.  Let them choose the photos and explore the stories behind the photos.

Let your child write his/her own book and illustrate it.  These make marvelous keepsakes that you can put away to enjoy again and again, even after your children have children.

Above all, keep the mood light.  Try not to be critical of their work, but praise them whenever possible.  This builds their self-esteem and confidence to try new projects.  And you have had a wonderful day of bonding with your children.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quotes


Today is about the letter Q.   So I’m sharing some of my favorite quotes.

“Good is not good, where better is expected. ``Thomas Fuller (1608 – 1661).  The Church-History of Britain, 1655.

“It is quality rather than quantity that matters.” Seneca The Younger (5? B.C. – A.D. 65).  “On Sophistical Argumentation,” Moral Letters to Lucilius, 34.1, tr Richard M. Gunmere, 1918.

“Less is more.” Robert Browning (1812 – 1889). “Andrea del Sarto” (I. 78), Men and Women, 1855.

“We are never so much disposed to quarrel with others as when we are dissatisfied with ourselves.”  William Hazlitt (1778-1830). Characteristics in the Manner of Rochefoucault’s Maxims. 163, 1823.

“Big Brother Is Watching You.”  George Orwell (1903 – 1950) The caption under the ubiquitous poster of a glaring Big Brother, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1.1, 1949.

“The greatest strength and wealth is self-control.”  Pythagoras (6th cent. B.C.)

“Sympathy is two hearts tugging at one load.” Charles H. Parkhurst (1842 -1933). “The Good Samaritan,” sermon.

“Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.”  David Starr Jordan (1851- 1931) The Philosophy of Hope, 2nd ed. (1st ed. Title: The Philosophy of Despair), p. 39, 1907 (1902).


Obstacles revisited


Remember my post a few days ago about Obstacles?  I wish I had seen this image before I posted that article..lol

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Prison Escapees at Large Today

UPDATE: One Of Escaped Inmates From Ottawa County Jail Apprehended In Nebraska, Two Remain At Large | The Salina Post

This report has caused quite a stir in north central Kansas.  I was alarmed when I heard that prisons would be farming convicts out to county jails a while back.  What has happened today has confirmed my fears.  I thank God that no one in my family has been hurt by these maniacs.  I do have family in Minneapolis, plus a friend who works with me.  I am keeping them in my prayers, that they and their families stay safe.

I highly recommend that everyone in Minneapolis and also in the surrounding counties keep their doors locked. Don't leave your keys in your car, and keep a firearm handy, if you know how to use one.  Call 911 immediately if you see anyone matching the convicts description lurking around.  Don't answer the door unless you know who it is and it is someone you trust.

Prisoners who have committed capital offenses should never be farmed out to local jails.  They need to be kept in the higher security prisons.  I hope our counties have learned something from this disaster.  I hope they find these men immediately and return them to Ellsworth or a higher security prison.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Obstacles: Real and Imagined




Ok, I’ve got a few goals.  I’m going to write in my blog, paint a landscape, pay my bills, clean my house, read that book that keeps calling to me, lose some weight.  Yeah, right! (Note sarcastic tone.)

Setting the goals is the easy part.  It’s following through that gets me, every time.  Sometimes the obstacles that prevent me from achieving are natural, unavoidable ones.  My health is not the greatest anymore and flares up at the most inopportune time.

But most of the obstacles I face are the ones I put in front of me.  Why do I do that?  I want to be successful.  I want to write my novel, get published, create those paintings.  Why on earth would I sabotage my own efforts?

Fear of failure is often behind my procrastination.  If I don’t try, then I can’t fail, right?  Wrong.  If you don’t try, you never succeed.  So that logic is terribly flawed.  But  still I keep doing things that keep me from achieving my goals.

Dislike of the task is another reason.  I hate paying bills.  I loathe housework.  Dieting has never been a pleasant experience for me.  So I don’t do them, and pay a significant price for the omissions.

Laziness can be used to describe my lack of action most of the time.  It takes time and effort to set up my paints, decide what to paint, draw the sketch, and actually start and finish a painting.  Then, if I don’t quite get the painting done, and it needs to dry (oil paintings can take days to dry) before I can frame it, then I have to find a place to store it where it won’t get damaged.  So I don’t start a painting.  I put it on the back burner.  If I had enough burners for all my unfinished projects, I would be able to cook for an army.
Disorganization, I suspect is probably the root of much of my procrastination.  I don’t have a reliable systematic plan of action.  I don’t have constructive habits formed.  I allow tiny distractions to keep me from doing the work that I want to get done.  Income tax time is a prime example of this “syndrome.”  I absolutely hate doing income tax preparation.  Thank God I didn’t become an accountant like my dad wanted me to become.  I would be totally miserable in my work.

Splintering is a term I sometimes use to describe my avoidance of certain tasks.  This is when I start a project with good intentions.  I actually intend to complete whatever I want to get done.  I may get everything set up to do it.  I may even actually start working at it. 

But somehow, in the space of a few hours, my resolve splinters away with tiny distractions.  After working for a few minutes, maybe even an hour or two, I grow restless.  I stop working to use the bathroom. As I emerge from the bathroom, I decide to get a drink of water.  As I reach for a clean glass from the cupboard, I notice a few dirty dishes in the sink.  Oh, my.  I’d better wash these.  So I start washing dishes.  The phone rings, and I visit with the caller for a while.

After the call ends, instead of returning to either of my prior chores, I start a batch of laundry, and watch some tv while folding clothes.  Next I decide to check Facebook to see what the weather is doing, and end up chatting with friends, then playing some games.  The original project is long forgotten. 

I may return to it later, but the resolve has dissolved, and I can’t get that energy back.  So, either I put it away until the energy returns, or leave it in place while I fix lunch.  And so the day disappears in a myriad of distractions, and I fail in achieving my goal for the day.
This happens on a pretty regular basis.  There are some projects that I do actually complete, simply because I have to get them done.  I do eventually get my taxes ready for the preparer, I do get my laundry done, because I’ll run out of towels, clothing, and clean bedding if I don’t.  I have to keep clean clothing for Dennis so when he comes in unexpectedly from the truck, he’ll have fresh clothes to change into after his shower.

But the projects that do not get completed often outnumber the ones that are finished.  I feel shame when I think of all the projects I have volunteered to complete and do not get done, or end up rushing through it to finish, not doing the best I can do.  I could blame it on my astrological sign, perhaps.  Libras are notorious procrastinators.  But placing blame does not solve the problem.

New Year’s Resolutions—I don’t even bother to make them anymore.  It’s useless.  I fail with those before the middle of January.
I promise my doctor that I’ll watch my diet and get more exercise.  Yeah, right!  She usually smiles, because she knows they are just words.  Oh, I probably really intend to do those things when I say them, but there are just so many obstacles!

I know what I need to do.  I know how to do it.  I need to start new healthy and productive habits.  Get those nasty, unpleasant tasks completed early in the day when I’m fresh, before the computer or the television is turned on.  I may even do that for a week or two.  But I usually revert to my old tricks.

Maybe I need to read a book on organizational skills.  Maybe I need hypnotism to set up better habits.  I’ll have to think on that.  Right now I think I need a drink of water.


Dixie Barnes is a registered nurse who dreams of writing and illustrating children’s books.  She lives in Kansas with her husband of over forty years, and two Shih Tzu dogs.  She loves spending time with her three children and nine grandchildren. She mentors the F2K Free Writing Fiction class in Writer’s Village University and writes fiction, including YA novels and short stories, essays, and poetry, which she posts on her blog Living Fossil Images at http://livingfossilimages.blogspot.com/2010/09/living-fossil-images.html?spref=fb.  She paints in watercolors and oils, and enjoys working in colored pencil.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nursing Homes




“I would never put my parents in a nursing home.   They are just warehouses for the dying.”

“No one that loves their parents would ever dream of putting them in a nursing home, where they are abused, starved, and left sitting in urine and feces for hours.”

“I would rather die than go to a nursing home.”

“I could never work in a nursing home.  It’s so depressing, and it would be so boring.”

These are just a few of the comments I have heard from people when they find out I work in a nursing home.   Many of these people have never spent much time inside a nursing home.  They may pop in once or twice in their lifetime, look around, and make a snap judgment about the place from the first impressions they receive.

Unfortunately, some nursing homes are not ideal.  But the ones where I have worked are not that way.  The residents are cared for by caring professionals, who are up to date on the most current treatments and regulations. 

The Annual State Surveys of these nursing homes have been excellent.  There are no perfect nursing homes, because they are staffed by human beings, but the people I work with care about the residents and have taken them as family to an extent.  The sound of laughter between the residents and staff and visitors is like bright cheerful music.

There are activities planned daily, and often at least twice if not three times a day.  Besides the usual bingo, which remains a favorite for many, there are shopping trips to the local stores, trivia, and trips down memory lane where they can talk about the “Good Old Days”, and their lives before admission.

Some of the residents live in the assisted living and independent living areas, and can leave the building with family for special occasions, or just to go for a ride.  Families often bring meals in and share with the residents in the residential dining room.

Televisions, stereos, computers, cell phones, and other miscellaneous electronic gadgets are available for residential use.  Books and magazines are brought in by staff to share with the residents.

Spiritual  needs are met by local ministers and priests, and we have an entire wing dedicated to the Sisters from the local Convent who need special care.  Our beautiful chapel has regular services several times a week which are attended by residents, and by parishioners from the area parish.  Volunteers assist the residents to the chapel and help them return after the services.

The food is very nutritious and tasty, and the residents have a say in what is served.  Each meal plan is offered with multiple choices in entrees and other courses.  Supplements are offered for those needing extra calories or nutrients.  We have a relaxed meal schedule, so that those who wish to sleep in for breakfast can still have a hot delicious meal when they get up.  Some prefer to eat in bed.

We have full time laundry and maintenance technicians, and  requests are usually filled immediately for repairs that are needed, or equipment that is needed for ease in handling the residents day to day cares.

We have a staffed Restorative and Therapy Room daily with physical, occupational, speech, and restorative therapists on staff.  It’s not unusual to see residents walking in the halls with a staff member by their side.  Some that cannot walk longer distances have motorized wheelchairs or scooters that they use for mobility.

The nurses are competent, knowledgeable, and compassionate.  They will go the extra mile to make life better for the residents.  The aides are hard working and get along pretty well with each other.

The facility itself is attractive.  The chapel and front lobby are beautiful with high vaulted ceiling in the front lobby reaching to the skylight in the roof.  Carpeting and tile floors are in good shape throughout the facility. There is a working fountain outside the main dining room windows, and a lovely courtyard surrounded by residents’ rooms in the center of the facility.

We have animals that roam freely around the facility.  A dog, several cats, and an aviary with colorful birds keep the residents feeling like they are in a homelike atmosphere.

There are so many other nice features about the place where I work.  The other nursing homes where I have worked have similar qualities.  I have not been in a nursing home that is like what is described in the opening paragraphs in this area.

If you would like to do something special for someone, come to a nursing home, and spend some time with the residents.  Just sit and talk to them, watch some television with them, share a few stories, take them for a wheelchair ride to see the aviary.  It would brighten their day immensely.  And it will make you feel special too.  If you like the experience, become a volunteer.  They are always needed.  You can ask the personnel director how you can help make someone’s life a happier one.  God will reward you for it too.

God bless you.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Middle Age




Oh my Goodness!  I just realized something.  I’m old!  It was hard enough to realize that I was middle aged about twenty years ago.  It took me almost half of that twenty years to come to terms with it.
But today, while skimming through my dictionary under the “M”s, I came across the definition of Middle Age.

Harper-Webster’s Dictionary describes middle age as “the period in  your life when you are between the ages of about 40 and 60.”  I’m almost out of middle age and about to enter the limbo stage between middle age and senior citizen status.  How did this happen?

Some days I do feel like a senior citizen.  Especially when I realize my grandchildren will start graduating from high school next year.  And when my health problems flare up: the diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and now my most recent diagnosis of osteoarthritis in my hips.  My current episode of pneumonia has aged me about ten years I think.  And somehow, when I recover from a disease bout, I don’t feel any younger.  It just levels off at the current age stage until the next round of antibiotics begin.

I would love to be able to go for walks with my daughter and granddaughters, walk the dogs, ride my bicycle, and play in the softball and whiffle ball games my family loves.  But after only a few moments, I begin having intense pain in my lower back and hips.  By the time I reach my destination, I am in agony.  So walks are very limited in scope these days.

Work schedules are difficult now too.  I remember back in the 90s, I could work the twelve hour shifts, attend nursing classes, and keep up with four teenagers at home.  Where did all that energy go?  Now, I can only work about three eight hour shifts in a row.  If I work four, I invariably end up with bronchitis or some other ailment.  I have graduated from ibuprofen to tramadol to Lortabs for the pain I suffer while standing doing my work.

My cognitive function varies as well.  When I’m writing, while sitting at my computer, I can write and put two words together that actually make sense.  But after working an eight hour shift, my nursing charting sometimes makes no sense at all.

There have been some advantages to middle age, however.  I have learned tolerance.  I no longer become as angry when I see children being disrespectful, or when my dogs misbehave.  I am more tolerant of alternative lifestyles, even though I have no desire to live them myself.

My faith has become much stronger, and I am more assertive.  Probably not as assertive as I should be yet, but my distaste for conflict has taken a back seat to the strong desire to convert others to my political views.

A Libra myself, I have always tried to see both sides of every situation.  This has made it much easier to deal with conflicts, as I can understand the opponent’s side of the story. 

So, what do I do now?  Do I change anything about my lifestyle?  Do I change careers?  I see my nursing career waning at this point due to my debilitating diseases, but is it too late to begin a new venture?  I have no desire to go back to school to learn a new trade. 

Rather, I am drawn to the prospect of either buying the local newspaper, or opening an art/craft store and offering art classes.  How much capital either of these would take is unknown to me.  I have been afraid to check into those details.  My husband is afraid to see me leave my good paying job to take on a risky business venture.  But I have five years at least before I can collect Medicare, even if it still exists by that time.  I need to make some plans.  I want to explore my options.

Middle age is almost at an end.  What will senior citizenhood bring?  Time will tell.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Love Expressions



Being married for over forty-one years takes a lot of work and thought.  It means giving everything you have to keep that spark alive.  And if you are successful, the relationship will remain strong, even after the physical expression is, shall we say, not the most important part.

I have learned a few things about keeping that spark growing.  It may not be the fiery passion of newlywed love, but it is much stronger.

I’d like to share some practical ideas for those of you who would like to express your love for your life partner.

Honesty and respect are two of the most important aspects of a happy marriage.  If you can’t trust your partner, it erodes the feelings of love away.  If a mistake is made by one, confessing and taking responsibility for that mistake is vitally important.  From that time on, you will have to re-earn that trust.  That takes time.

Remember anniversaries and important dates.  Especially wedding anniversaries, the date you met, and other significant relationship milestones.  If you have trouble remembering these dates, put them into your smart phone, or have someone do it for you.

Give your love the valuable gift of your time and attention.  It may become comfortable to spend your evenings watching television or playing computer games, reading or whatever individual hobbies you may have, but remember to reserve some special one on one time just between the two of you, to listen to each other, and to talk about something other than the jobs, the household, or the kids.

Sometimes this means doing something that you really are not that crazy about.  If she likes chick flicks now and then, take her to one, even though that military action movie you’ve been dying to see is also playing.  Then, the next time you go to the movies, she may be more willing to sit through your violent movies, even though she may spend most of it with her hands covering her eyes.

When the two of you shop together, treat her to something she would love to have but is too practical to purchase.  You’ll know what that is by watching her face as she shops.  If you buy clothing, though, be sure to know her sizes first.  If you buy it too small, she will be embarrassed when she can’t get into it.  If you buy it too big, she might feel that you think she is fat.

If  you buy her flowers and candy for Valentines Day or an anniversary, it’s a nice touch to send it to her work place.  It will make her female co-workers jealous and the romance of it will increase doublefold.

Plan your little surprises for each other throughout the year, not just on  holidays and anniversaries.  It’s especially romantic to get flowers “Just Because.”

Bake his favorite cake or fix his favorite meal when you know he’s having a hard day.  He’ll appreciate the gesture.

For men: the most often requested gifts for women include jewelry, perfume, lingerie, clothing, and handbags.  Also nice is a night out on the town with dinner, perhaps dancing, and romance.

For women: the gifts that men request the most: clothing, gift certificates, stereo equipment, smart phones, sports equipment, tickets, tools.

Men, remember that not all romantic evenings have to end in sexual activity.  Snuggling and cuddling are always enjoyed.  Don’t forget the aftershave and mouthwash.  Very important.

Try something new and different occasionally, like spending the weekend in a hotel with a Jacuzzi or spa.  Reserve the honeymoon suite, and share a bottle of champagne and flowers.

Women, make the first move.  Men really enjoy the feeling of being wanted and needed, just like you do.  They do like being pursued, even if they say they don’t.

Give him a massage.  There is nothing more sensual than a nice loving massage using scented massage oils.

Men: ask her to marry you again.  Our church has begun offering renewal vows at various times of the year.  We have done it a couple of times and it always brings tears and a rush of new love for each other.

These are just a few of the ways that we have kept our marriage a happy one for forty-one years and counting.  There are so many more things that you can do.  The main thing to remember is to keep your eyes and ears open to new ideas about what makes your partner happy. 

It’s not about giving her the most expensive or the most unusual gifts, but about thinking about what she needs and wants.  She may not always come out and tell  you these needs.  You must learn sensitivity to her wants. 

This goes as well for men.  They may need reassurance that you respect and love them and want them.  They have fragile egos that need constant reassurance that they are “doing the right things.”

Keeping love alive can be a daunting challenge.  But it is also a fun and rewarding challenge.  Are you up for it?