Saturday, March 28, 2015

A to Z Blogging Challenge

2015 April A to Z Blogging Challenge

To all my friends out there who write stories, who read stories, or who live stories. That means everybody! It’s almost here. And you only have five days to sign up. The annual April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Click here for all the information you need to be ready to hit the ground running April 1. No April Fool’s. Well, maybe a few of us April Fools.
I did this last year and liked it. Yes, the me who does not join, does not follow rules, and religiously resists suggestions and advice. We make a concerted effort to write a blog entry every day. We get Sundays off. Each day has a letter. April 1 will be the letter A. April 2 will be B. And so on. Our topic for each day will begin with its assigned letter.
Last year I started with A is for Antepenultimate. I know, a bit pretentious. But I do love words. Especially words that are new to me. Like all my blogs, they will focus on writing; flash fiction; reviews of books, movies, TV shows, and – if I can find the funding – live productions; and a new-found interest, creative nonfiction.
I don’t do recipes, but you can. I don’t do how-to pieces, but you can. And I hardly ever do philosophy, religion, politics, or medicine. But you can. Just begin with the day’s letter.
On day 2, that’s next Thursday, the letter will be B. So if you’re into quilting and chickens, you can do Bow Ties and Barred Rocks. Or photography and cats – you know who you are – you might do Black and White Bob Cats. Or saving money and raising beef? Baling Wire Repairs and Black Baldies.
Whatever your interest or concern, you can blog about it. And by the time you get to P, you will discover you have had ample opportunity to be pithy or pissy. You’re right. I’ve gone too far. But I’m on a roll and there’s no stopping me now.
When you sign up, do follow their rules. I didn’t so my blog is all lower case letters and I failed to put my two letter code after. I would have put (WR) for writing, if I had done it right. And they won’t let you change it. Oh, well. I’m starting at number 1397. As time goes on my number will change. People drop out – who knows why. Maybe they get married, move to Argentina, die. Doesn’t matter. If they don’t post for five days or the powers-that-be discover they’re a business using the Challenge for advertising, they get deleted. And we all move up the list.
Don’t have a blog already? That’s okay. There are several outfits on the internet that you can use to start one. I use Google’s Blogger. My daughter-in-law uses Word Press. The Challenge doesn’t have a preference.
Oh my goodness! I just changed my desktop to the Challenge’s calendar. Already I miss my Ceres and the surrounding star field. The calendar is relentlessly cheerful. Not that Ceres and Space are not. They’re just so much quieter and calmer about it. And it was easier to see my icons.
I’m ready. I’m pumped. I can do this! And you can too.

See you Wednesday – I mean 'A' Day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A New Dog -- Nonfiction

Maggie May
Our Basset Hound died last summer and our Dachshund Oscar before her so we were down to one dog for the first time in at least 25 years. One dog, no cats, no birds, no chickens, no snakes. Just one dog – our Gracie Lu, a dapple, smooth coated Dachshund.
And dozens of fish, but fish are such quiet, unassuming pets. They require little attention and disdain any interaction. No cuddling. No adoring gazes.
We meant to get another dog before Bess the Basset left us, but it just didn’t happen. My husband, a veterinarian, now works in administration and no longer does clinical work, so dogs don’t just materialize at our door any more.
There was that young prairie dog that showed up on the front porch, but that’s a different story.
He, my husband that is, has always wanted an Airedale. We had one once. Hard-headedest dog we’ve ever had! Airedales are the largest of the terriers and they do tend to be, shall we say, independent.
On another occasion we had what our daughter-in-law thought might be part Airedale. That dog was in a shelter where she volunteered and was scheduled to be euthanized if he didn’t find a home. So she brought him to us. Hip-high at the shoulder with wiry hair, and no stop. His only Airedale-ness lay in his coloring, if you ignored all the gray. More likely he was part Irish Wolf Hound and no Airedale at all. He was the kindest dog we’ve ever had, except for the occasions when he practiced Dachshund tossing. He just got so excited sometimes.
Anyway, my husband accepted the mission to find a new dog. At first he looked for an Airedale. Then he focused on Dachshunds. Then we visited the local animal shelter. None of the dogs seemed quite right. They had a lovely rabbit, but we have plenty of them running the neighborhood wild, including the one who regularly produces babies under our front porch. (Which has nothing to do with prairie dogs or this story.)
Finally he turned the search over to me. I told my friend, who trains dogs and volunteers at the local shelter. We especially wanted a Dachshund under one-year-old. A smallish dog that I could lift into the car by myself in an emergency.
In the course of our discussions, I told her about my husband’s long-standing yen for an Airedale and my admiration for Blood Hounds. I do like hounds. Red Bones are, in my opinion, the most beautiful dogs ever, but quite uncommon on the Front Range.
She told me about a new arrival at the shelter – probably part Blood Hound, around three years old, spayed, housebroken, 75 pounds. Sounded like just what we’d been looking for.
I called my husband at work to see if he would be agreeable.
“Go see her. I’ve got too much to do here to go with you. Three isn’t too old. See what you think. I trust your judgment,” he said.
So I did. My father and I went before lunch that very day.
At the Foothills Animal Shelter, they put us in a visitation room. It’s a real uptown shelter. And brought this great reddish gold dog in and left her with us. She’s obviously NOT a bloodhound. But, equally obviously, she is part some kind of hound. She has a broad head, big muzzle, lots of lips, and a bit of drool. Think Hooch of Turner and Hooch, the Tom Hanks movie. She’s not that slobbery, besides that dog was a Dogue de Bordeaux, pure bred. Our dog is neither. Not French and not pure bred.
She is beautiful. Her eyes are the same red-gold color as her hair which is short, thick, and luxuriously soft. And she loves people. We brought her home.
The guy at the shelter suggested I walk her and Gracie Lu around the block before I took her in the house – maybe ease that initial meeting. So when we got home my father waited with Maggie (that’s what I wanted to call her) in the van while I went inside and got Gracie Lu for this recommended walk around the block.
Gracie went for her. And I don’t mean in a good way. That great alien beast of a dog was too close to her mama and Gracie would run her off or kill her which ever came first. Dogs have no sense of size. At 20 pounds, Gracie was sure right would make might and she was right.
What a rodeo. I yanked on leashes and yelled and was able to stay between them to prevent either of them getting hurt. My Dad got Gracie back into the house and I was standing in the driveway with a thoroughly confused big dog that I didn’t know at all well.
I called my husband and explained what happened.
“Is anyone bleeding?” he asked.
“Just me,” I said. “Broke the nail back into the quick on my little finger.”
He couldn’t leave work right then. I couldn’t take Maggie into the house with only my father there to help me referee. Daddy is pretty spry for 89 years old, but not strong enough to deal with 75 pound Maggie or adrenalin pumped Gracie Lu. So I called my daughter. We got the dogs inside and began the introduction process.
Thinking of it as an Arab-Israeli style peace would be too strong. Maggie was not interested in fighting. She just didn’t want to be eaten by a Dachshund.
She met my husband at the door, barking and growling. She quickly decided he belonged here and wanted a belly rub.
“She’s not a Bloodhound. She looks like a Pit Bull,” he said.
“They said maybe she’s part Mastiff,” I countered.
“Have they ever seen a Mastiff?” he asked.
The next day Maggie snagged an unopened bag of hotdog buns off the dining table and ate as much of them as she could before I caught her and took them away. She can easily reach the table, standing flat-footed on the floor.
Two days later I made pancakes for breakfast. Gracie was still being testy about Maggie’s very existence. I put the pancakes in a plastic bag and left it open on the top of the stove so they’d cool before I put them in the freezer.
By then the dogs were being allowed in the back yard under supervision. My husband was getting a chance to watch Maggie’s general behavior and the way she ran, all loose jointed.
“She’s definitely some kind of hound,” he declared.
Daddy found both dogs chowing down on the pancakes. Maggie had gotten them off the stove.
Three days later, the dogs were getting along pretty well. Probably bonded over the pancake caper.
On the fourth day we had to leave the dogs unsupervised in the house for one and one-half hours. Fearing for their lives, I put Gracie in her box in our bedroom and left Maggie loose in the rest of the house. What could go wrong? There were no left-overs on the table or stove. It did occur to me that if Maggie knocked the fish tanks over, that would qualify as a disaster. But they’re big and heavy, on sturdy stands, and against the wall.
When we got home, everything on the kitchen counter was strewn across the kitchen floor. An unopened jar of horseradish was under the dishwasher. A jar of cinnamon was under the table and a box of salt was under a chair. She’d apparently decided against exploring Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. There were muddy smears on the counter and on the papers and cook books on the floor.
Now I’m not the world’s greatest housekeeper, but my floors aren’t muddy. The next possibility was dog poo. A careful sniff relieved that dread. And stepping around the couch into the living area, I found the source of the “mud.” A previously unopened box of Swiss Miss hot chocolate mix. A couple of the packets were in gooey shreds and the powder was everywhere.
I called my husband at work. “I guess I’m going to have to improve my housekeeping. All food stuffs will have to be behind closed doors. Or we’re going to have to get a box for her.”
He came home bearing gifts – a big Kong toy and an extra big box.

“I know what kind of dog she is,” he announced. “You’ve brought us a Bumpus Hound.”

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Life in a Tree -- flash fiction

image from

“Stevie, are you still up there?”
“But what about Daddy?”
“Steven Michael, you come down here this instant. We’ve got to be at the airport in six hours.” Now he decides he’s not going. I won’t have it. He does not make decisions for me. “Steven. Now!”
“I won’t leave Daddy.”
“I’m coming up there.” Climb a tree after a six-year-old? This is the stupidest damn thing I’ve done in a long while. “Steven, do I have to drag you out of this tree?”
“But, Mom, look at the world. You can see the whole world from up here.”
“Yes, very pretty.” She sat down on the limb and let her legs dangle. “Stevie, this is exactly why we’re leaving. What you can see from here is not the whole world. It’s not even a little bit of it.”
He’s just like his father, no imagination. Satisfied, satisfied, satisfied. He’s a little boy. He doesn’t understand. We’re one hundred and fifty miles from an airport. A regional airport. Not even a hub. You can’t get anywhere from here without going somewhere else first. That far from the nearest ballet company. Not that Michael cares how far his son is from a ballet company. But we’re just as far from a hospital – a Level II trauma center. There is no Level I in the whole state. God forbid if he fell out of this tree. We’re talking med flight into Salt Lake or Denver.
“Just think of it Stevie. Washington, D.C., the Capital of the United States, the most important city in the world.”
“But we won’t have a house. Where will we sleep? I don’t like hotels.”
“No, honey, we won’t live in a hotel. We have an apartment there. You’ll have your own room just like here.”
“I don’t think Rufus will like an apartment.”
“He’s too big for an apartment. Besides he can’t go on the plane with us.”
“I’m almost as big as Rufus, maybe I’m too big for an apartment.”
“We’ve been through all this before.”
And much, much more with his father. Michael knew what she was like when they married. He was handsome and brilliant. He was proud to have a wife graduating at the top of her class, then clerking for a State Supreme Court Justice. He knew she wanted out of Wyoming. She thought he would want to go where they could actually make a difference. Actually protect the wildlife he loved so well. She thought the National Park Service would be just the beginning. The first step. Decisions were made in D.C.
Michael should have been there an hour ago. He should be the one up in this tree.

“Hey! What are you two monkeys doing up in the tree?”
“Daddy! Come up. Come up.”
“Yes, Michael. Do come up and see if you can talk some sense into your son.” She moved toward the trunk of the tree. “Wait. Let me come down first.”
He lifted her out of the tree and set her on the ground. “What’s going on?”
“Steven Michael doesn’t want to come with me.”
“Okay.” He took a slow deep breath. “What do you want me to do?”
“Talk to him. Explain it to him.”
“Explain divorce to a six-year-old? I’m not sure I can.”
She snorted in disgust and stomped away.
He climbed the tree and sat on the third from the bottom most limb. Drawing his son into his lap he asked, “Now why don’t you want to go with Momma?”
“It’s too far away, and you know how she always gets lost and she needs you to tell her how to spell words and Rufus can’t go.” The little boy’s eyes filled with tears.
Michael kissed Steven’s forehead, knowing that this was one hurt he couldn’t kiss away.
“Stevie, your Momma won’t get lost and if she does there’ll be lots of people there to help her find where she wants to go. And you know she never goes anywhere without her phone so she can use it to find out how to spell any word she wants to.”
“Okay.” The child sniffled and snuggled against his dad.
“And Rufus will go to work with me most days.”
“But why, Daddy? Why?”
“Why what?” he asked, knowing very well what. “You know how unhappy Momma’s been, for a long time now. Sometimes grown-ups just don’t love each other anymore.”
She had loved him once, he was sure of that. She was beautiful and intelligent. And she had been enthralled by his intelligence. She could have had any of the campus jocks, but she loved him. She knew what he was like. He lived out-of-doors, in the wild places away from the corrosive element of human beings. Wildlife management was his way to save at least a little part of the world he loved. He thought she would settle into the life, appreciate the vitality of Wyoming, the skies, the fresh air, the unlimited opportunities for discovery.
“Daddy?” the child put his hands on either side of Michael’s face and made him look at him.
Michael would never get over how completely beautiful the child was. His child. The wild must be preserved for all the Steven Michaels.
“Do they have elk in Washington, D.C.?”
“In the zoo, maybe. They have deer. Not mule deer like we have here, but white tail. And raccoons and rabbits and some varmints like you’ve never seen here.” He set the child on the next lower limb. “Be careful.”

Before the boy climbed down, he asked another question. “Do grown-ups stop loving little boys?”

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek -- An Essay

 image from
Leonard Nimoy
   March 26, 1931 -- February 27, 2015

This is a description of the world as I knew it when Star Trek and its cast came into my life. Leonard Nimoy’s death has given me an opportunity to think about how the world was then and how it’s changed.
I grew up White, Protestant, working class, in Oklahoma.
In 1966 I graduated from high school. Most of my close friends had graduated the year before and my college experiences started when they started college. With them I met Black people and gay people for the first time. “People” isn’t exactly the right word. I met one Black, lesbian woman. Her color was obvious. Her sexual orientation was not, but she neither hid it nor announced it.
And “for the first time” is wrong, too. I spent my first ten or eleven years in small Oklahoma towns where segregation was a part of life. The schools were being integrated one grade at a time beginning with the 12th grade and working its way down. The towns still had “white” schools and “colored” schools. “Colored” was considered the polite term by my parents. My grandparents used the “n” word. I don’t remember anyone using the word Negro, except the news people on TV. Our towns had one main street – two maybe three blocks long. Some of the stores served White people and some served Black people. I was never in a “colored” store. I’m sure there were Black people on the streets Saturdays, but I don’t remember them. I think kids are just like that. All people belong to one of two groups. They are either grown-ups or kids. And you don’t pay much attention to grown-ups unless they’re kin or authorities. And kids are kids. Color, religion, and language don’t much play into it.
There were very few Catholics, no Jews, no Asians, and no Hispanics. A few people spoke with accents mostly German accents, but they were grown-ups.
Before integration got to the grade I was in, we moved into the Oklahoma City School District which was segregated by residential practices. For those of you who don’t remember that, it means Blacks were not allowed by custom to live in White neighborhoods. No laws had to be enacted to enforce this type of segregation. The general White public did it, some tacitly, some aggressively.
We had one Japanese boy in our class. No other Asians, no Hispanics, and few Native Americans. (We called them “Indians.” We didn’t realize there were any kind of Indians other than Native Americans.) I had never eaten with chop sticks. I’d never eaten avocadoes. And my grandmother’s idea of spaghetti was spaghetti stewed with tomatoes and sugar served over mashed potatoes. Oregano was not in our lexicon. I did meet a Jewish girl at Girl Scout Camp the summer after the sixth grade.  
We were in a Cold War with the Soviet Union and we lived near Tinker Air Force Base. We all knew what number Tinker was on the Soviet hit list. We lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis. Magazines had recipes for Jell-O salad and instructions for building a bomb shelter.
When the Oklahoma City School District was ordered to begin busing to integrate its schools, we moved to a college town north of Oklahoma City. A White, college town. Only the college was integrated and that not very much. Still no Black students in the public schools.
It was then that the ugliness of segregation struck me. Because it affected a fellow high school student. He was a year ahead of me. He was bright and funny and kind. And while in The City (that’s what we called Oklahoma City) he was refused service at a lunch counter because they thought he was Black. His ancestors were Italian and he was a life guard at the local swimming pool so he was dark-skinned. Somehow, the fact that they treated him like he was Black when he wasn’t was not the injustice for me. It was the fact that his dark skin could be used against him. That the color of anyone’s skin could be used against them. That was the injustice.
By the time I was in college, I realized that injustice covered a much broader field than just skin color. My friends who didn’t go to college because of finances or academic indifference or legal entanglements were being sent to war. My friends who were gay were being threatened. Black and White people were being killed because they wanted to help Black people vote.
Then Star Trek hit the airwaves. I could see on my little black and white TV screen all kinds of people working together to explore and save the universe. There was a competent Black woman, a half-Vulcan/half-Human man. There was a Japanese guy and a Russian. A Russian good guy. And the combination of people was presented to us as common-place, normal.
We’re part way there. There have been great strides in civil rights in this country. In most places we can be friends with, work with, live next-door to, and marry whomever we choose. The Internet makes it possible to communicate across most borders without needing permission. And in Space, we have the International Space Station and her diversity-rich crews. There’s more to do. There’s always more to do. But we truly are “going where no man has gone before.”
I know that Leonard Nimoy was not Mr. Spock, but he gave life and legend to the character who approached reality rationally and scientifically. His character was treated with love and respect by the other characters showing how it could be among humans (and part-humans.)

Nimoy’s family will miss him, the man they knew. They will know on a daily basis that Leonard Nimoy is gone. But us fans? We’ll soon forget that he is gone, because we’ll continue to see him as we knew him – Spock. We’ll see him whenever we want to. Or whenever we happen to. And he’ll continue to say to us “Live long and prosper.”

image from
Mr. Spock
September 1967 -- Into the Future