Tag Archive | inspiration

Garth Stein – Author Event

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Garth Stein, the author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. Eden Prairie Reads* sponsored the author event which was held at St. Andrew’s Church. Mr. Stein was introduced to the crowd by the chair of the committee. A grand entrance was made from the back of the church as the crowd of about 100 people applauded. When Garth dropped something on the floor, the clapping stopped, but Garth asked us to please continue with our applause until he got to the podium. The audience complied.  🙂

Mr. Stein started his talk by saying, “Wait a minute.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket, took a picture of the audience, and told us he would post our picture on his Facebook account. He also said he had to take care of a little business before he started his reading. He asked us to sign up for his newsletter and giveaways after the event. He also explained how he likes to write books, but he also needs people to read them. He thanked the booksellers, librarians, and teachers and asked us to please buy books from bookstores.

Garth Stein Event
I’m way in the back!

Mr. Stein then recited:

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

Someone in the audience knew that this stanza was from a poem written by T.S. Eliot. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, I discovered after I googled a few key words.  Mr. Stein read a few lines from the beginning of The Art of Racing in the Rain and told us that the question people ask him most is:  Where did the idea come from? “So many different places. It’s like a stew. All the different ingredients come together.” He talked about how he moved to New York from Seattle in 1983 and worked on documentary films. In 2001, he moved back to Seattle. While working in New York, one of the films they were working on was about Mongolia and how they believe dogs reincarnate as men. The idea really stuck with him. When he was back in Seattle with Billy Collins, a poet, Billy read his poem The Revenant, a poem from dog heaven. More ideas came to Mr. Stein and he was able to write the book very quickly even though the main idea of it came to him about six years before.

At the beginning of his writing career, Mr. Stein drove around to different book stores and asked if he could speak there. When he was in Plano, Texas, he did a reading for the one person who showed up. He asked his fan if he would like to just go to the coffee shop instead, but the guy said “no” – he wanted Garth to do a reading for him. It was from his book Raven Stole the Moon. His wife is his first reader and wondered what he was doing during the day while he was touring with Raven Stole the Moon because the book signings were in the evenings. She figured out he was going to the movies – the movie ticket that she found in his pocket was a big clue. She thought it would be a good idea if Garth wrote during the day, and that’s when he wrote The Art of Racing in the Rain. He sent the manuscript to his agent, and he waited. He waited, like his dog Comet likes to wait for pancakes to get made on Saturday mornings: very attentively. He watched his phone for several days. When his agent finally called, Garth asked, “What did you think?” The agent said, “It’s narrated by a dog.” The agent didn’t know how he could market a book written from a dog’s point of view, and Garth replied by saying, “Victor Hugo wasn’t a hunchback.” So Garth fired that agent. Garth sent his manuscript to many agents and they all thought the same thing – they didn’t know how to get it published. When he was at a Literary Lions gathering and was getting introduced to people at his table, he told them how frustrated he was since he couldn’t find an agent. One guy at the table said, “My book is written from the point of view of a crow!” That book is called Song of the Crow, by Layne Maheu. It’s a story about Noah’s Ark, and that’s the tale of how Garth found his new agent.

Garth talked about how aspiring authors ask him what information he has to help them get started writing a book. Garth said that it’s like Pin the Tail on the Donkey. You start at one point and work your way around. You can move the pin as many times as you like.

Garth’s new book is called A Sudden Light which is based on his play Brother Jones. It’s a spiritual ghost story. He shared the story about his father’s death and how a “mystical thing” happens to him when he’s writing.

Garth was currently reading The Brothers K, a sports book by James Duncan. He also recommended reading The Trouble with Poetry. Some of his favorite authors are Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; John Steinbeck; and Flannery O’Connor.  Universal Studios is working on making The Art of Racing in the Rain into a movie, and Garth has written some children’s books with Enzo, Zoe, and Denny, characters from The Art of Racing in the Rain.

This was my first time going to an author event, and I thought it was very entertaining and inspirational. How about you?  Have you ever attended an author event?  What did you think?
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* “Eden Prairie Reads is a community grassroots group whose purpose is to promote reading, encourage discussion and strive for a new level of connection in the Eden Prairie community. We try to select books that will have broad appeal in the community while at the same time challenging us to think, and talk about issues we all face.” For more information, check out their website at http://www.epreads.org.

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Better Than a Rat’s Tail

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Lila & Kona

I thought Lila, our dog, looked fine, but we kept hearing comments about how she looked “plump” or “overweight” or “is she getting bigger?” which made my heart feel sick since my husband and I make a point of exercising her regularly. Last summer, it also seemed like her energy level decreased.  Then, last November, we noticed her tail looked like a rat’s tail.  There were big splotches of fur missing.  We thought she might have a thyroid problem so we went to visit the vet.

Doc felt her fur and agreed that it didn’t have the luster that a Labrador’s coat usually has. Lila stepped on the scale, and her weight was the highest it’s ever been even though we cut back on her food.  The vet took a blood test to see if Lila had a thyroid issue, and sure enough, a few days later, he called to tell us that she needed to go on thyroid medication. We were surprised, since no one else in the family has a thyroid problem.  😉

Last weekend, Lila had another checkup, and when she hopped on the scale, she was 12 pounds lighter. Doc and his assistant were surprised to see that she lost so much weight since her now luxurious fur can make her look a little puffed out.  “Her fur is so soft.  She looks like a stuffed animal,” the assistant said.  Her fur is as soft now as the day we brought her home, and thankfully, Lila’s energy has increased too.  Doc would like her to lose a little more weight because it’s hard on dog’s joints and they can get arthritis if they get too heavy, so we’ve been instructed to cut back a little more on her food.  Of course, we’d never let her get too skinny, and she wouldn’t let us do that either, but I’m hoping the sticks and whatever else she munches on in the backyard don’t have a lot of calories!

Now with spring arriving, Lila’s beautiful coat is shedding and blotches of fur are showing up on the carpeting, but the fur loss is not as bad as it was before she went on medication.  Seeing the fur on the carpet is so much better than looking at a rat’s tail!

Kept Me on My Toes

Bauer 11-20-15
Bauer

Bauer’s nose was causing trouble when he stayed with us a few weeks ago. That nose was pointed up high in the air and steered him to a couple of adventures. Bauer has stayed with us before while his master was away, and those times went pretty well, but this time, Bauer seemed more hyper than usual. I just thought he was hungry, but I later found out that wasn’t the case.

We’ve known Bauer for about three and a half years now. The first time my husband and I met Bauer, we were visiting our son Matt at his apartment. Our son found Bauer at an animal shelter in a small town in northern Minnesota. Bauer was very happy to meet us. He wagged his tail and jumped up to greet us, but there were times when he growled at us too. The first time he growled at me was during our visit when he was sitting on my lap. I tried to change the way he was sitting because it was getting uncomfortable. He growled when I held his front legs and put them in a different position. I growled back, but that didn’t scare him like his growl scared me!

As the years passed, we’ve found that the more Bauer gets used to us, the less he growls. Now, Bauer only growls at our dog Lila when Lila gets too close to Matt or me. I guess he likes to have us to himself. Lila has slowly gotten more used to Bauer too. Lila just moseys along like she didn’t hear anything. She doesn’t hide in other rooms when Bauer’s around anymore and doesn’t lose lots of fur like she did when Bauer first started visiting us.

Bauer is very attentive when I cook. As I worked to get things ready during this last visit, he patiently sat close just waiting for some morsel to drop. When dinner was over and the dishes removed from the table, Bauer hopped up on a chair and onto the table to help make sure no messes were left behind. While the dishes were being cleaned off and placed into the dishwasher, Bauer watched carefully to see if anything fell where it shouldn’t. Just as everything was cleaned up and I thought I could sit down to relax, I heard Bauer clawing away at the cupboards where the garbage can is stored. That’s when I figured out that Bauer could break the rubber bands that held the cupboard closed and that the chopstick that I placed in between the handles didn’t work too well either.  The next day, I bought a childproof lock that worked so well I didn’t want to bother with it every time I had to throw something away. Instead, I used a temporary garbage can in the garage, and Bauer found out how to get into the Tupperware cupboard instead.

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Bauer is a Beagle and Blue Heeler mix.

One night, Bauer was going crazy after our daughter Katie came home from work. Katie brings home lots of bags with papers and books and things to help her prepare for her next day as a teacher. Bauer kept sniffing at one of those bags. Katie said there wasn’t any food there, so I believed her. When I was getting ready for bed, I looked to see if Bauer was where I last saw him.  He wasn’t, and I heard funny noises coming from the dining room.  When I found Bauer, he was clawing and chewing away at a granola bar. Half of the granola bar was gone by the time I got there, and I sat and watched him enjoy the rest of it. I learned from previous experience not to get in the way of a dog and his food – especially Bauer’s.

Thankfully there was no chocolate in the granola bar, and Bauer seemed so happy to go to bed after he found that treat. Except his stomach told a different story the next morning when I found a puddle of something dark had soaked into my comforter. (No other dog has been allowed to sleep in our bed, except this one!)  Bauer threw up the following morning too, right on the sheets. All the bedding got a good washing those two days. I think the second mishap occurred because I fed him too much the day before. I thought with his nose going 60 miles an hour everyday trying to find more food meant he was hungry, but I was wrong. Too many treats from me caused that last unexpected outburst.

After those two unfortunate incidents, Bauer wasn’t so hyper any more. I was happy about that because if he was going to keep up those shenanigans, it was going to drive me crazy with the way he kept me on my toes all the time. It seemed like we were getting used to each other until the next day in the kitchen. Bauer gave me another surprise when he jumped up and grabbed onto a white container with his paws. The container dropped to the floor. Inside was a piece of lasagna that was supposed to be my dinner. I watched as he gobbled it down, licking the container clean. I wondered if lasagna would cause another upset stomach, but it didn’t. The only one who was upset was me because I didn’t get to enjoy the lasagna.

We’ll never know why Bauer seemed so out of sorts at the beginning of his visit, but it might have been because he had a little separation anxiety.  When Matt came back from his trip, and I told him about our adventures, Matt just said, “He’s smart.” Matt and Bauer spent another day with us, and the next day, the two of them got ready to head back to their home.  I watched the car back out of the driveway like I always do. Matt waved good-bye, and Bauer stood on the front passenger’s seat with his front paws leaning by the bottom of the window. He waved his farewell by swinging his tail back and forth while looking my way, and I thanked God we all survived!

Even though that little creature and his nose kept me on my toes, I think it’s funny how I can’t wait for both of them to come back for another visit. I hope it’s soon.  🙂

Hiding Among the Trunks of Towering Trees

The minute my husband walked into the door last Monday night, I could tell something was wrong.

“Lila really got into something,” he said. He did not look happy. They had just come home from their walk, and according to my husband, Lila, our dog, was covered in something disgusting.

“It can’t be that bad,” I thought to myself because Lila’s not one to get into too much stuff.

“We have to give her a bath. She couldn’t go back in the van. The van is still down by the park. She’s covered with whatever it is she got into.”

Lila can get into a bit of something small in the yard, and she rubs her neck into the offending odor. Like that’s not good enough, she turns to rub the other side of her neck into it too. Usually, it’s not that bad and we can’t even tell she’s trying to smell like something else. This little routine usually happens after a bath, but it’s been a few weeks since she’s had one.

Since the hoses are tucked away for the winter, and we didn’t want to drag them outside, turn on the outdoor faucets and freeze the little girl into an ice cycle, I opened the basement window while my husband attached the hose to the laundry tub. We pushed the hose through the window out into our backyard. While my husband went to get Lila from the front yard, I went to turn on the flood light in the back and then went to the linen closet to grab some towels.

Once I saw both of them in the back yard, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was surprised to see the entire side of Lila’s beautiful black coat smeared with something orange. We’ve never seen her get so covered with anything before.

After I got the thumbs up sign from my husband, I ran downstairs back to the laundry tub, and turned on the water. Lila didn’t mind getting a bath outside even though it was cold out. The water was warm, but I wondered if she was confused as to why we were washing away the treasure she found. She must have been disappointed that we didn’t like her discovery.

20151011_072854Lila after a bath at Lulu & Luigi’s
a few weeks ago.

A few days later, my husband and Lila went down to the park in the light of day to see what it was that Lila had gotten into. Our suspicions were confirmed when he saw two rotting pumpkins sitting in the park hiding among the trunks of towering trees.  We know she likes pumpkin because we give it to her as a treat either frozen with plain yogurt in her Kong or just straight from the can into her food bowl. We were surprised she liked it enough to glide through it with one side of her entire body – especially when it was rotten.

“That’s okay, Lila,” I said. “You needed a bath to be ready for Thanksgiving company.”

Perhaps she just wanted to be a part of all the festivities!

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

Were You as Shocked as I Was?

As the sun shined down and sat in a perfectly blue sky, I pumped my legs trying to get the swing to go as high as it could. Green leaves from the trees waved to me in the wind as branches swayed back and forth. Stomach muscles felt tight and strong every time I pumped my legs. My hands held tight to both of the chains that held me up. Each time my legs were in front of me on the way up, I saw how the sun had turned them a brown berry color over the summer months. My toes pointed up trying to touch the leaves that were too far to reach. My hair flew back and forth keeping time. I never thought I could go so high!  Then, as the swing and I winded down, I sat still and thought how cool to be able to go so high. As I day dreamed a little more, a splat of something wet hit my leg to bring me back to reality.

On SwingA Different Day on the Swing in November

“What was that?” I thought. I looked down to see a white blob sitting on one of my legs. The offending thing had just missed landing on my new pair of shorts. As I stared at it for a little while, I realized that it looked familiar – something I would have seen on a sidewalk and tried to avoid. A little speck of black surrounded by a white blob had ended up on my leg. Could it be that a bird pooped on me? I looked up at the sky and didn’t see one bird flying or sitting above me. With pockets empty of a handkerchief, I had to leave my swing to search for something to clean up the mess. I quickly found a leaf and scraped away the upsetting gift the bird left on my leg.

Since then, I’ve heard that it’s good luck when a bird poops on you, but I didn’t know that at the time. Back then, I was so shocked and grossed out!  Do you remember the first time a bird pooped on you? Were you as shocked as I was?

“Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.” Mr. Rogers

Last week, when I went to see my daughter’s classroom where she will be teaching her first year, I wondered if I appreciated all the work my kids’ teachers did to get ready for a new school year. I didn’t realize how much work was involved to get the classroom looking so great.  Katie had been going to her classroom a lot before her first day of school, so her room looked pretty awesome by the time I came for a visit.

Here are some pictures of my favorite bulletin boards and posters that decorate Katie’s fourth grade classroom:

I wish I could have some of the above posters with me when I go out into the world.  For instance, “What you do and how you act makes a difference in our world” is a great reminder.  I also like the flamingo poster because sometimes people worry too much about fitting in when we should try to appreciate people and ourselves for who we are.  Katie put together the “BE…” sign and the Walking with Jesus poster.  My mom’s big, blue, wooden-beaded rosary hangs in a corner of the room next to a big statue and a little statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Katie painted the rocker she found at Goodwill, and I got to make a new cover for the cushion!  That rocker sits in the reading corner where Katie will read lots of books to her students.  Those kids have a lot to look forward to this year as they learn things they never knew.

Here’s to all our teachers and your guidance.  Where would we be without you?

When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me. ~Fred Rogers

It Helps Us to Say Thanks, Part III

Two years ago, I posted a blog about my poem that my brothers and I agreed to have engraved on the memorial paver at Como Zoo and Conservatory in honor of our parents. About a year ago, the paver was installed, but it took me this long to get over to take a look. The reason it took so long for the installation was because the weather conditions were not ideal – the ground was too soggy from rainy days. The reason it took me so long to get over to take a look is another story – other plans kept getting in the way.

Finally, that nudging feeling to go pay a visit won the battle against my procrastination.  The day my son and I visited, the weather was similar to when I visited during It Helps Us to Say Thanks, Part I. It was so warm, the animals sat close to the walls of cool buildings whether they were inside or out making it difficult for us to see them.

The brick looks very nice and is settled amongst other memorial bricks.  The shade from the trees gave the paver a shadowy look.

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After we visited some of the animals, we went to The Ordway Gardens which is a recent $2.8 million addition to the conservatory. We looked at the indoor gallery of bonsai trees, and I couldn’t help but take these pictures along the outdoor path:

I wonder if the sign above says “thanks” in Japanese.

The new Japanese garden is the only place in Minnesota that has a top-curated Japanese plant collection. It was if we were carried away to another place.

Even though Mom and Dad wouldn’t have wanted us to make such a fuss with the paver, I’m glad we took a long time to say thanks.  😉  Visiting Como was one of my parents’ favorite things to do so it’s nice to see the place continue to grow and improve.

Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.  ~G.B. Stern