Archive | January 2012

A Few Clouds Freckled the Sky

Beach with Ferris Wheel

“I’ve never been on a Ferris wheel,” I said.  We kept holding hands even though it was a little sticky.  I didn’t want him to let go yet.  Maybe he would hold onto my hand a little bit longer.  I realized that I didn’t know when he would think he was too big to do that any more. 

“Really?” he asked.  His grip grew a little tighter as we walked across the bumpy sand.

“I don’t know why I have been so afraid to go on one.  One day I went on a roller coaster three times.  A Ferris wheel seems less scary than a roller coaster.”  I stared at that Ferris wheel.  The closer we got to it, the bigger it grew.  The sun bounced off the shiny parts as it moved.  My fear started to bubble up inside of me again.  I wondered if we should wait and go another time.

“You’re right, Mama.  A roller coaster looks a lot scarier than a Ferris wheel.  Remember when we were at home, and you were scared to go down the big slide at the pool?  That wasn’t even scary,” he giggled.

“I know!  I don’t like rides.  One year at Whiz Bang Days, I didn’t even go on any rides, but I threw up when I got home anyway, just from watching my friends twirl around on the scrambler.”

“I like rides,” he said.  The thin shadow of the wheel blocked the sun.  As we climbed inside the car, it wobbled back and forth.  We strapped ourselves in, and a man closed the gate.  We lifted up, but just enough to let the next car get filled with passengers.  The higher we went, the more we could see.  There were only a few clouds to freckle the sky; the only blemishes on the ocean were the swimmers close to shore.  We slowly circled around and around.  Not one butterfly made my stomach flutter.

“Look at the blue umbrellas,” he said.

“They’re all in a straight line,” I said. 

“Are you scared?” he asked, as he looked at my hands holding onto the bar in front of us.

“No!  This is so much fun.”

After we got off, we went right back on again!  Around we went, and towards the end I held his precious hand. 

This post was prompted by Red Writing Hood @ www.writeonedge.com   

The Evolution of a Coupon Clipper

Have you ever seen the TV show where people have enormous amounts of coupons and end up getting money back from the cashier when they are finished with their grocery shopping?  This show baffles me.  Friends and family see this and wonder why we actually have to pay for our groceries.  I tell them that show is not really real, even though I really do not know if it is really real or not.  I made up this explanation to defend my evolving lack of talent when it comes to coupon clipping.

When I first began clipping coupons, I looked through the Sunday newspapers.  I used to make a pile of coupon booklets and diligently go through each page and cut out all the coupons I thought I would need.  I did this even if it wasn’t right before I was going to the grocery store.  Imagine how organized I was.  I then arranged those coupons in my coupon box.  Some people have their coupons organized in categories, like produce, dairy, cereal, etc.  Okay, I used to do that a very long time ago, because I had little dividers, but I don’t anymore because the dividers ended up getting lost on purpose somewhere.

I recently noticed that since I have been clipping coupons for a while now, that I have changed my clipping routine.  Sunday is no longer designated coupon clipping day.  Any day I go to the store, I might dig through accumulating piles of newspapers just before I head out.  I grab the coupon booklets and rapidly page through them to see if there are any worthwhile coupons.  I clip some or else I just leave the booklets in the pile for me to look through next time, hopefully before their expiration dates. 

Sometimes I find coupons that are so valuable that they end up being admitted to the coupon box for future use.  Nowadays my coupons are categorized in reverse chronological order.  New coupons to be admitted to the box get to have their place in the very front.  Even as I am trying to search for new coupons, I do look through the precious box in case I find a treasure there.

Recently I have noticed that coupons are mostly for worthless stuff.  I feel lucky if I find a coupon that I can actually use.  The fact that I am not having much luck finding coupons should discourage me from even looking.  But it hasn’t.  If I did not search for coupons, I would wonder if I was missing my chance of finding a really good deal.  Yet, deep down I wonder if trying to find coupons is a waste of time.  Is the actual 25 cent coupon really worth the time spent trying to find it?  Plus all this accumulation of coupons makes it necessary to take on the task of tossing away the expired ones.

Honestly, the thing that makes me a coupon clipper is seeing how much money was saved after each trip.  I instantly look at the bottom of the receipt.  I need to know how much money was saved and what the percentage of savings was.  Even though my coupon clipping talent has not evolved to the Internet or even gotten any better over the years, putting these helpful facts on the bottom of the receipt will forever keep me clipping.

Why My Dog is a Drop Out

When we first got Lila, we realized that she probably should have some type of dog training because she didn’t even know the command “sit.”  The Animal Humane Society (AHS) offered classes at a discount for people who adopted their pets there.  So, I signed us up. 

Before bringing Lila to training, there was a class for the humans to attend without the dog.  The instructor gave tips on how to train your dog not to pull when you walk with them.  We also learned about house training and what types of products to use in case puppy has an accident on the persian rug.  Instructions were also given on what to do if your dog bites or mouths people.   

The instructor then talked about clicker training.  When dogs get used to the clicker training method, all they have to do is hear the clicker, and they start salivating.  Yum!  The classes are set up in levels.  The levels are repeated over and over until you pass onto the next level.  The humans need to bring about 100 small treats to class, and she recommended not feeding your dog before training so that they are hungry and attentive.  Everyone would get a clicker when they got to class, and she informed us that there are special bags available for purchase to store the treats. 

Lila and I were all set to go the first day.  We fed her a little bit because I didn’t want to look like a piece of prime rib to Lila.  I made sure that Lila had her gentle leader on because I wasn’t sure how she was going to react to the other dogs.  Luckily I was able to strap on my own blue fanny pack which carefully held the treats that were cut up into small bite sized pieces.

I was a little worried about bringing Lila back to the AHS because I thought she might be sensitive and maybe she would worry that I was dropping her off there for good.  I was wrong.  She was very excited to go back.  Hmm.  She knew which way to go and went up the stairs to meet the grouchy receptionist at the front desk. 

“That gentle leader is not on properly,” said the receptionist.

While the receptionist tugged and pulled the gentle leader and made sure that it was as tight as could be, she stomped back behind the desk.  It wasn’t too tight because the treats still got through to the proper receptacle. 

I barely got our names written on the name tag, and Lila pulled me into the gymnasium.  We were instructed to go back in the corner.  Treats and toys were up on a table at the opposite wall of the entrance.  Chairs lined the other three walls.  Thankfully, Lila and I were close to the watering bowl.

The trainer, Bill, came over to meet Lila.  Lila barked and panted.

“Panting is a sign of being anxious,” announced Bill.  Bill swaggered around the room with his special bag of doggie treats that obviously were better than the treats I brought because I noticed that suddenly Lila was very attuned to Bill.  Lila barked and barked at Bill.  It was if she was saying, “Come back, come back.”  It was very distracting to the class, and I was slightly embarrassed.

“Feed her treats, if she barks,” said the receptionist who was now the trainer’s helper.  I thought that might be bad to feed Lila treats just because she was barking. 

Bill came back to see Lila.  “Here are our newest members,” he said.  “I am going to pick on them,” he laughed.  Bill showed us the sign for sit.  While holding a treat in your hand, hold it slightly up from the top of the nose of the dog and slide it back toward its rear, and the dog will sit.  If the dog performs the trick properly, the owner is to click the clicker and give the dog one of the treats from the special bag.  Since food was involved, Lila caught on right away.  She sat just great.  I was so proud.

After the dogs and the people learned the sign for sit, we taught the dogs how to sit by voicing our commands.  If the dog did not listen to us, we were to use the sign.  We taught them how to sit by our side while being greeted by a “stranger” (i.e., Bill or the assistant).  The dog also needed to be able to eat treats from our hand without biting us.  Lila did this very well!  I, though, had a hard time holding onto the clicker, getting a treat out of the fanny pack before Lila forgot why she was getting a treat, and holding the leash down with my foot so my dog wouldn’t escape and tackle the treats on the table.

When the class was about halfway through, Lila decided that she had enough, and laid down to take a nap.  She must have been full, plus it was right around her bedtime.  She laid down, paws out front and yawned, her head resting on her legs, obviously bored.

The next Thursday night we did the same thing.  It was like that movie, “Ground Hog’s Day.”  Everything was repeated, except that the gentle leader did not have to get readjusted.  Lila and I stayed in the same level for about five weeks just hoping and dreaming to graduate onto the next level.  In order to pass the class, the dog has to do all these things without treats.  I knew we were doomed from the beginning. 

I helped Lila become a drop out because I rarely practiced with her.  The time of the class didn’t help either because Lila gets tired during that time of day.  I mean, how many treats are you suppose to give a dog?  All those treats upset the natural order of things, if you know what I mean.  Messy!

I guess the class was worth it because at least Lila knows how to sit on command now, and we do communicate a little better with each other.  There are still times when I think Lila could use some more training so I think I am going to go to the library and get a book.  Let me know if you have any good suggestions. 

This type of training is not all its clicked up to be.

What a Treasure is in a Book!

I have a book that has been following me around for years. First the book was in the bookcase of the house where I grew up. It stayed there for a long while because it used to belong to my Dad. The book followed me to all the places I have lived since then and now resides on a table in our home. My parents must have seen me page through the book many times, and they must have thought that I liked the book so much that I needed to have it live with me. Little did they know that I only read the first few pages several times. After that I just looked at the pictures. Sometimes kids think that there are too many words in a book.

Now that it looks like I am not a kid any more, I have noticed that there really are not that many words in this book. The print is large, and there are about 160 pages (including pictures). I thought that reading the book, The Little Swiss Wood-Carver, by Madeline Brandeis, © 1929, would help remind me about Switzerland and woodcarving, and it did.

I always knew that Switzerland was a very beautiful country from the stories that I heard and the pictures I have seen. This made me wonder why Grandpa left such a beautiful place; he never complained about living there. I know he came to America to find more opportunities.  Reading about Seppi’s life in the mountains made me realize that times were not always as good as I thought they were. Most of the wood carvings made by Seppi’s father were sold to shops in the village. The village shops were only busy during the tourist season. Seppi and his father would sometimes run out of food during the long, cold winter months when the tourists didn’t bother to visit.

The part of the book that charmed me most was how Seppi wanted to be a wood carver just like his father. He longed to go to woodcarving school, but his father could not afford it. The villagers thought that Seppi’s father was rich because he was so gifted. So Seppi secretly carved animals while he tended the goats for one of their neighbors. The way that Seppi honored his father’s woodcarvings reminded me of how my Dad felt about my Grandpa’s work.

The feeling that this book conveyed was just what I was looking for to help me write about my Grandpa. If I could write and explain how my Dad honored my Grandpa, and how Dad taught his kids to do that too, what a treasure that would be. It’s good to notice and see what has been following you around, and then figure out why you have been holding onto it for years.

To Blog or Not to Blog, that is the Question!

In my last post I wrote about how I started a new blog called, My Grandpa, the Woodcarver.  It was so easy and fun to write about my Grandpa’s House.  I enjoyed walking through each room in my mind!  Writing about Grandpa brought back many memories – memories that I do not want to be forgotten.

That may be why writing memoir is so popular today.  Regular people who are not even famous are writing memoirs.  In the foreword of Lisa Dale Norton’s book, Shimmering Images:  A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir, Hal Zina Bennett points out that people want to reflect on their lives and share what they have learned.  Lisa Dale Norton has been teaching writing classes for many years.  She explains how the memories that stay with us stay for a reason.  Those memories are our shimmering images – a part of our lives, our story.  I also found this book helpful because the author points out different ways to format memoir and what a memoir needs to engage readers.

When I thought about my new blog, I found myself jotting down my “shimmering images.” Suddenly I realized that I had the format of a book to be written laid out right in front of me.  If I chose to, I could begin writing a memoir of special memories that would include Grandpa’s woodcarving skills, instead of writing a blog.  Even though some shimmering images have been revealed to me, I realized that I need to uncover the other important aspects that make any story work, such as theme, the underlying meaning, conflict and resolution.  While I was going through this process, even more recollections came to me.  When I woke up this morning, I was surprised when the song “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey” kept playing in my mind.  I used to play that song for Grandpa on the clarinet that he bought for me!  I have not thought about that song in years.

Writing a book seems like it would be a lonely process.  When I blog, I sometimes get feedback that can be inspiring and it helps me want to write even more.  I’m afraid that I would not be motivated to write a book because I would not be getting that feedback.  I most likely would not let anyone read my book as it progresses because it wouldn’t be my final piece of work.  Yet, in my mind I keep hearing one of my friends say, “What’s with all this blogging?  When are you going to write your book?”

“A book?” I think.  Can I really write a book?  I know it’s not easy.  As you can see, I am wavering and indecisive.  I question:

  • Would all the work be worth it;
  • How long will it take me, a slow writer with a busy life, to write a book;
  • What if no one likes what I wrote; and
  • What message do I want to send?

What are your thoughts?  If you have had personal experiences with how to keep yourself motivated while writing a book or blog, maybe you could share your thoughts here.  I would like to hear what you have to say!

Whether My Grandpa, the Woodcarver ends up as a book or a blog, I plan to keep writing on My Reality Show!  Who knew blogging could be so fun!