Monday, July 17, 2017

God Visits the Patent Office

Once upon a time, many years ago, I worked for two patent attorneys at Union Carbide in Danbury, CT. During my two years there, I became familiar with the formality of patent jargon which led me to wonder what would have happened if God had had to apply for a patent before making humans. Here's the lighthearted result of my musings. Let me know what you think.

IF GOD HAD TO APPLY TO THE PATENT OFFICE


IN THE UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE
Hon. Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks
Washington, D.C. 20231

WOMAN

ABSTRACT

The present invention relates to the manufacture of a homo sapien of
the female genus.

PRIOR ART

The principal object of this invention is to provide an improvement over
the prior art which consists of U. S. Patent No.1, which teaches the
manufacture of a homo sapien of the male genus.

As can be seen by the accompanying drawings:

FIG. 1 is a side view of the present invention, showing a considerable
improvement in the overall lines, contours and curves of the No.1
invention.

FIG. 2 is a rear view.

FIG. 3 is a front view. It will be obvious to anyone skilled in the art that
considerable changes have been made over the prior art.

In addition, it should be noted that in the present invention, the
shoulders are narrower and the hips are wider than in the prior art,
allowing for a major improvement in that the invention possesses the
capability to contain within itself an exact duplication of itself, or of the
male genus of the prior art, albeit on a smaller scale. This capability
also affords the advantage for the shape of the instant invention to
increase or grow in size over a period of nine months.

It should be further noted that the present invention has one more rib
than the previous invention, thereby increasing the strength and
stability of same.

BEST MODE OF THE INVENTION

The best mode of the subject invention is to present an improvement
over U. S. Patent No.1; to provide a complement to the No.1 patent;
and to provide a means for reproducing itself, either in kind or similar to
the genus of the No.1 patent.

CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A homo sapien of the female genus possessing reproductive
capabilities.

Applicant respectfully requests that this application be favorably considered,
allowed and passed to issue at an early date.

Respectfully submitted,


GOD

Monday, July 3, 2017

EEK, It’s Murder!

Today I’d like you to meet my friend and mystery writer, Ellen E. Kennedy. She’s not only a compelling author, she’s a wife, mother, grandmother, and retired commercial copywriter, living in the Raleigh, NC area.

Welcome, Ellen! I'm excited to do this interview with you. Let’s talk about your writing career. How long have you been writing books?


Roughly seventeen years, when I began writing the first book (Irregardless of Murder) in the Miss Prentice Cozy Mystery Series, about a high school English teacher. It was first published around 2001 and then re-published in 2012, followed by Death Dangles a Participle, Murder in the Past Tense and Incomplete Sentence.

What type of writing do you normally do?

I always recommend that new writers write in the genre they most enjoy. I love cozy mysteries, a la Agatha Christie. I’ve also written Christian romance and a couple of Christian suspense novellas.

Tell us exactly what a cozy mystery is.

A cozy mystery, in my opinion, is one set in a small community where all the characters know each other well. The murder, if there is one, occurs offstage, so to speak. There is a minimum of sex and violence and little or no police procedure. Some have said a cozy mystery needs a “hook” of some kind, such as a knitting theme, or coffee, or a bakery. If that’s the case, my cozy series’ “hook” is that my character, Amelia Prentice, is an English teacher and her thoughts and speech reflect her profession.

How many books are in your series and how do they relate to each other. Introduce us to Amelia Prentice.

Amelia’s story starts in Irregardless of Murder, when she trips over the corpse of a former student in the public library. The aftermath of this incident changes her life, which is that of a single, forty-something teacher who has taught at least half the local population.

In Death Dangles a Participle, two of Amelia’s students are accused of a particularly brutal murder and she sets out to clear them. There are many side plots, including a strange lunchbox and a mysterious illness that plagues Amelia.

Murder in the Past Tense is centered around a flashback, when Amelia and her husband Gil remember the summer they worked together in the local summer theater. I especially enjoyed making up a musical, complete with lyrics, for the actors to perform. The strange disappearance of a young woman and the enigmatic life of an Adirondack hermit are intertwined.  

Give us a brief synopsis of the third book in your series, Incomplete Sentence.

Incomplete Sentence is about a ruthless killer who was found guilty of the brutal murder of his girlfriend fifteen years before, but has eluded the law, hence the title. Amelia becomes acquainted with the father of one of the victims and when she and her friends are stranded in her family B&B during an unexpected blizzard and another victim is found, she fears that the killer may be among them.

Folks, I’ve read this book and it is a page turner! Ellen, how long did it take to write this thriller? 

I worked on Incomplete Sentence for about a year. Most of the books have taken about that long.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?

I love the character of Hugh Channing, the elderly law professor and father of one of the victims. He reminds me of my own dad. Here’s a favorite quote: “Die. You can say it: die. It doesn’t frighten me. Don’t say ‘pass.’ I hate weasel words. I’ve heard my share. Lawyers use far too many of them.” He goes on to say, “The Bible is the ultimate law book. Everything stems from it, or should.”

Is it published and, if so, when and by whom and how can my readers get a copy?

Incomplete Sentence was published by Sheaf House Publishers on 2016. You can buy it or any of the other Miss Prentice mysteries from the publisher, from CBD (Christianbook.com), Amazon or B&N. It’s available in Ebook or paperback. 

What do you enjoy doing besides writing?

Until they came along, I had no idea how much I would enjoy having grandchildren. We have five and my husband and I take every opportunity to spend time with them. Another joy is the writers’ circle I mentor every Friday morning. It’s made up of some extraordinary people who turn out remarkable work. It’s a highlight of my week!  

Do you have advice for would-be writers? 

People should write whatever it is they want to read themselves. If you love science fiction, that’s what you should write. The same for romance or mystery. If you like biography, do that. It’s important to learn the basics, but don’t spend all your time learning how. Just do it, as the Nike slogan says!

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?

I wish I knew how hard promotion is. I thought that part would be easy, because I have a background in advertising, but it’s much more difficult in my opinion than the actual writing, which is a joy and agony by turns. But writing is well worth it, even if you’re never published. 

What are you working on now?

Earlier, I mentioned writing novellas. I’m working on a story for an anthology now, to be called I’ll Be Watching You, and one for another anthology, Christmas at the Cactus CafĂ©. Barbour is going to re-publish—for the third time—my Christian romance novella The Applesauce War, the plot of which is based on one of my favorite musicals, The Fantasticks. The novellas have proven much more lucrative than my full-length novels, but mystery novels are still my first love.

Sometime soon, I hope to finish book number five in the Miss Prentice series. The title will be The Village Idiom.

Folks, I have one word of advice for you. Don’t read this book if you plan to pick it up and only read for a few minutes. You won’t be able to put it down and before you know it, your few minutes will have turned into an hour. I know. It happened to me.

Thank you, Ellen, for a good interview and a great series of cozy mysteries. They are just the thing to take to the beach, take on vacation, or curl up by a fire with.  (I hope I didn't just dangle a participle or something!) Trust me folks, Miss Amelia Prentice is a character you won’t soon forget.

Quote of the Day: There will be time to murder and create. T.S. Eliot


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Validated by Spencer Tracy

It’s been four months since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The USS Hornet sails from Alameda, CA toward Japan on a secret mission. The navy carrier has a special unit on board—Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle accompanied by his men and their planes. Their mission: bomb Tokyo in the first retaliation for what the Japanese did to America. 

When the Hornet came within 700 miles of Japan, Col. Doolittle and his raiders climbed into their planes and roared off the flight deck toward Tokyo. The carrier that aided the successful mission was kept secret for a year, known only as Shangri-La.

So why am I dredging up history? Because to me, it’s not history. It’s what I’m absorbed in every day as I write my latest novel, Saving Lou. I’ve done a lot of research to make my book as historically accurate as possible. Over the weekend, I watched a 1944 movie, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, with Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson, and Robert Mitchum. Spencer Tracy played the part of Col. Doolittle. As I watched the movie, entranced, I could see my book come alive on the screen. Like seeing your baby for the first time, after feeling it for nine months.

My main character Lou Dyson joins the Navy in January ’42 and, after boot camp, is assigned as an aviation mechanic on the Hornet. In April, Col. Doolittle comes aboard to prepare for his mission. I mention this in my book and take a bit of poetic license by having a brief encounter between Lou and Doolittle. I write about getting lost in the huge ship and voila, the movie shows three of the army airmen getting lost in the bowels of the ship. Watching the movie, I could almost see Lou on the deck of the Hornet mingling with the airmen. This movie, made while the war still raged on, validated my writing and my research, and that’s a mighty good feeling.

My book isn’t finished yet, it’ll be awhile before it is, but for now, Lou and I spend time together every day. I help him come to grips with the internal conflict he’s carried within him all his life and he helps me see World War II up close and personal. I hear the bombs burst and see the skies fill with smoke. I look into the fearful eyes of the young kamikaze pilot as his plane swoops toward Lou's carrier and then I feel the heat from the explosion.

Just as Willard Manor, Leaving Mark and Finding Gary, have a connection, Saving Lou carries on that connection. I’m having a good time populating the city of New Haven, CT with my characters. I’ll let you know when the book is published.


Quote of the Day: What air is to the body, to feel understood is to the heart. Stephen Covey


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Master's Touch

I like to watch Bob Ross on PBS television. As a disclaimer, Bob Ross has since passed away and the shows are reruns of his old shows. If you haven’t seen him, he paints beautiful pictures using a two-inch brush, a palette knife and a couple of other brushes.

I paint along with him, in my mind, as I watch the full painting come into focus.

So why am I talking about painting on a writing blog? Because it occurred to me that the way he paints is similar to the way we write.

He starts with a blank canvas. Isn’t that how writers start? With a blank screen in front of them?

Ross mixes a blue color to fill in the sky and a lake or stream, so his entire canvas is mostly blue. That’s his background for starting the painting. Our background comes together when we decide if we’re going to write fiction or non-fiction, what the genre will be, and if it will be a book, short story, article, or memoir. Then Ross adds clouds and a little pink to enhance his sky. We writers, by now, have settled on the form and style of our book so we can continue in earnest.

Then Ross puts a black color on the palette knife and slashes a jagged line across the blue sky to represent the beginnings of a mountain. Our black slash will be the conflict our protagonist encounters and must overcome. As Ross adds strokes to the mountain, the ridges and plateaus come into sharp focus. Likewise, our conflict will soon reveal its many dark areas, twists and turns.

Then he adds tall pine trees on each side of the lake. These trees, along with a waterfall down near the front, are his secondary characters. They’re included to add interest and warmth to the painting.

Then he fine tunes the picture by adding highlights to the trees, adding a grassy meadow and colorful shrubs, and putting a few rocks in the water. What was once a blank white canvas, is now a colorful, beautiful picture with depth, and dark and light areas--a scene you want to step into. How does this translate to a book? Once you have a skeleton of an idea and have inserted a conflict, protagonist, and secondary characters, you go back and fine tune the story by adding scenes and all the little nuances and dialogue that bring the story to life.

I can hear you asking, “But who is the protagonist in a painting?” It’s you, my friend, the one who looks at the picture and wants to be in the scene.

So whether you’re painting a picture, writing a book, or building a house, you start with an idea. Then you add all those little touches that make your work unique, something that someone will want to own in order to look at, read, or live in.

Go ahead. Let your creative self shine!



Quote of the Day: You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. Les Brown



Monday, May 8, 2017

Launching a Guiding Missal

Today I want to tell you about a special event I attended Sunday. It was a book launch by Nancy Panko (you may remember I interviewed her in my last post).

Guiding Missal is Nancy’s first book, so this launching of her story was the culmination of long years of writing and research.

Nancy held the event at a wine bar in Holly Springs, NC surrounded by loving family, friends, and writing associates. 

Since Guiding Missal is the story of three men in her family who served in various wars, starting with World War II, the event had a military theme. One poignant moment was when the Pledge of Allegiance was given to a tattered US flag that had flown over Normandy on D-Day. The flag was held by Nancy’s husband, who is the second of the three men in her story, and a retired Marine whose father, after raising a new flag, carried the tattered flag in his sea bag throughout WWII. This flag is featured on the cover of Nancy’s book.

On the table preserved in glass, was the Catholic missal that all three men carried into service. As only Nancy can do, she has the missal narrate the story so we see the wartime action through the missal’s eyes and hear how the missal protected each family man who held it close to his heart. The missal is also featured on the book's cover.


And of course, no celebration is complete without cake, so Nancy had the cake made so that the book's cover is reproduced on the cake.



Nancy is a dear friend and warm, loving person and it was a thrill to be able to honor her at this special event. A book launch is a fun way to introduce a new book to the world and this week Guiding Missal is that book. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Story the Prayer Missal Tells

Today I am thrilled to be sitting here with author and close friend, Nancy Panko.

Nancy, before we get to your excellent book, Guiding Missal: Fifty Years, Three Generations of Military Men, One Spirited Prayer Book, tell me a little about yourself.

I was born in the dining room of a farm house in central New York State. I graduated high school in Pennsylvania and attended The State University of New York at Alfred for one year. I met my future husband in PA and we were blessed with two children.  At age 35 I decided to go back to college to become a nurse. I graduated just before my 40th birthday. It was difficult, but I'm eternally grateful for the opportunity to have had a rewarding career for 23 years. In 2009, we retired and moved to Fuquay Varina, NC and never looked back. Our kids live close by and we get to spend time with them and our 4 grandchildren.

How long have you been writing?

As I look back through my scrapbooks, I find I wrote short stories all through grade school. I was always good in English composition and took a creative writing class in high school which really got me going. As a nurse, we spent a great deal of time writing care plans for each patient. They had to be clear and concise. The first time I got paid for a piece was when I wrote for "Humor in Uniform" for Reader's Digest. They paid me $400 and the check arrived just in time to replace a water heater which had exploded earlier in the day. I now have seven stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and two in Guidepost magazine.

Give us a brief synopsis of your book.

Across a span of fifty years, three generations of military men have one prayer book in common that has a mind and voice of its own. In 1944, a U.S. Army baker volunteers as a forward observer to carry out covert operations behind German lines in World War II. In the early Sixties, a focused nineteen-year-old Airman is responsible for decoding critical top secret messages during the height of the Berlin Crisis. In 1993, an army sniper overcomes a debilitating condition only to fight for survival in the streets of war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia, when a Blackhawk helicopter is shot down. Yet, when each of these men face a crisis, this very special prayer book, My Military Missal, intercedes with understanding and divine power. Based on actual events, Guiding Missal is relevant for any person who is serving or has served in the military and their families.

What prompted you to write it?

Initially, I started a notebook in March 1994 to re-create Dad Panko's military history as a birthday surprise for my husband. I interviewed Dad and members of his company who were eager to tell their stories. Without the volume of material these men provided, it would have been impossible to tell his story. I began to compile the information in a notebook. That single notebook grew to three notebooks.

After all the research put into the birthday project, I decided to tackle the rest of the story. It was an emotional journey to relive the struggles of military life and combat affecting loved ones. With months of interviews and tape recorded conversations from my husband and our son-in-law, along with well-documented historical facts, similarities and differences emerged. Three generations of men shared the guidance of the same prayer book, two experienced combat, one did not, all returned home changed men sustained by faith and family love. I had everything I needed for my book "Guiding Missal.” 

How long did it take you to write it?

A total of 10 years with many interruptions, stops, and starts. Life happened, I lacked confidence, and then I joined a writer's group. They provided feedback and gentle critique. I got to be a better writer and blossomed.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?

Yes! It is: "He was just an ordinary man carrying a uniquely endowed military missal with the Word of the Lord to guide and shield him from harm."

Is it published, and if so, when and by whom?

It is published by The Light Messages group from Durham, NC, released to bookstores and the public on April 17, 2017.

How can my readers get a copy?

Amazon.com is taking orders for both the print and Kindle version of the book. Any bookstore can get it for you, it will probably have to be ordered unless there are lots of requests. (Please, Lord!)

What do you do besides write?

Spend time with family and friends, take care of our home, read, read, read, and my most favorite thing of all, spend time on our boat!

How nice. What is your advice to would-be writers?

Keep honing your craft, take writing classes, join writers' groups that offer constructive, supportive critique. Start with short stories and try to get them published to gain confidence.

Tell us what you wish you knew when you started your writing career?

I wish I knew how hard and time-consuming it would be. Anything worthwhile is hard work and the passion has to be there.

What's next for you, Nancy?

At this point, it's hard to think beyond getting this labor of love off the ground. Promoting the book is a full-time job. I continue to write short stories, submitting to Chicken Soup. Perhaps another novel will take form in a few months, who knows.

Folks, I’ve read this book and I highly recommend it. One thing that stands out to make the book unique is that it is narrated by the prayer missal, making the missal as much a character in the book as any of the Panko men who carried it into battle with them.

Guiding Missal is a timeless journey of faith, patriotism and miracles that will touch your heart as the missal and the men call out to God for guidance, protection, and a safe return home. 


Quote of the Day: Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war, With the Cross of Jesus Going on before!  Sabine Baring-Gould


Friday, March 24, 2017

Getting Out of Trouble

There’s a literary device that’s been used for centuries. It’s called deus ex machina, a Greek phrase that literally means “a god from a machine.”  In English literature, it relates to a character or thing that suddenly enters the story in a novel, play, or movie and solves a problem that had previously seemed impossible to solve.

Think Perils of Paulene. If you’re old enough to remember Saturday serials at the movies, picture a woman bound up in a cave and a dynamite fuse is lit. Just as the burning fuse gets closer and closer to the cave, a voice says something to the effect of, “Come back next week to see if she survives this terrible fate.” You go to the movies the next Saturday afternoon only to find that there was a back entrance to the cave and she walked out unharmed. That’s deus ex machina. And a huge letdown.

If you’re old enough to remember movie serials, then you most likely remember the Coasters and their song, Along Came Jones.  It seems Jones was a lanky guy who always showed up in time to save the day. The group sang: 

Salty Sam was tryin' to stuff Sweet Sue in a burlap sack
He said, "if you don't give me the deed to your ranch
I'm gonna throw you on the railroad tracks!"
And then he grabbed her (and then)
He tied her up (and then)
He threw her on the railroad tracks (and then)
A train started comin' (and then, and then!)
And then along came Jones
Tall, thin Jones
Slow-walkin' Jones
Slow-talkin' Jones
Along came long, lean, lanky Jones

Jones, of course, always saved the girl in the nick of time. Deus ex machina.

You could say the same thing about Superman, Batman and any other super hero who are fun to watch (I especially like Superman), but do they teach us how to solve problems? No, because they solve all our problems for us.

I much prefer a book or movie about a character who gets in a real-life situation and must figure out how to solve the problem using his own wit, brains, and stamina, and not have some supernatural being swoop down and get him out of trouble. What good does that do me should, by chance, I find myself in the same predicament some day? Neither Superman nor Jones are going to come along and get me out of the situation; therefore, I need to know how the protagonist got out of it.

Do you want to be rescued by a deus ex machina? Or do you prefer books where you mentally put yourself in the protagonist’s place and try to figure out how the conflict will be resolved? Which one will benefit you in life?

Quote of the Day: Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition - such as lifting weights - we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity. Stephen Covey

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Book and Movie For All Time - a Must See!

I have something extremely special to share with you. I went to the movies Saturday. That event in and of itself is not exactly special (although it has been a while since I’ve been to the movies), but the movie I saw, now that IS something special.

Let me go back a bit. A few years ago, I heard about a book called, The Shack, so I bought a copy and read it. I must tell you, this book changed my life. While reading it, I was enthralled at the highly profound story unfolding before my eyes and the way it deals with forgiveness, anger, love and a slew of other emotions.

There’s an interesting story behind the story. The author, William Paul Young, was a preacher’s kid, now married to a good and patient woman. Because the author had gone through a bad period in his life that sent him on a downward spiral which he eventually crawled out of, his wife suggested he write a story for their six children to help them understand life better.

Young finished his story in 2005 and took it to an office store where he had fifteen copies printed and spiral bound. He gave copies to his children and a few friends for Christmas, figuring that would be the end of it.

Eighteen million copies, 41 languages, and rising to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List later, he still shakes his head and laughs at the journey his little book has taken.

The Shack is a metaphor for that place where we get stuck or damaged, or where we've made really bad choices, or where we've piled up a lot of stuff in our lives that we don't want to go back to and deal with. Young says, “My life crashed and burned when I was 38-years-old, and I had to go back and deal with some stuff from being a child on the mission field along with other stuff in my life. It took me 11 years to get through the shack, and I condense that 11 years to a weekend for Mackenzie Allen Phillips.”

The Shack tells the story of Mack Phillips whose daughter is thought to be kidnapped and murdered, which sends Mack into a deep depression. Mack later receives a mysterious letter from Papa--his wife's nickname for God--which leads him to an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. At the shack, Mack encounters a trio of strangers led by Papa, who help him through this tragedy and change his life. 

Now to the movie. I went with friends to see a premier showing of The Shack, starring Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, and Tim McGraw.  As I’m sure most of you know, a movie version seldom does justice to the book. Not in this case; the movie is every bit as excellent as the book. The Shack allows God and the Trinity to become accessible and understandable in a way that's not been done before.

I have one suggestion for going to see the movie—bring more than one tissue! I only had one with me and it wasn’t nearly enough. The deep, deep sorrow inside Mack, together with his anger at God for letting his daughter die, are heart-wrenching as he finally is able to reach down and drag his feelings and questions and anger to the surface where he can deal with them. Mack asks questions we’ve all asked at one time or another.

When Mack (Sam Worthington) meets God, he is surprised that God is a black woman (Octavia Spencer). Why, you might ask, is God portrayed as a black woman? As it turns out, when Mack is a child living with an abusive, alcoholic father and compliant mother, the only person who is kind to him is a black woman who lives next door. It’s not surprising then that that same woman appears to him at the shack as the loving and kind God.

My favorite scene in the book/movie is when Mack and Jesus walk down to the water and sit on the dock, looking up at the stars. Just two friends enjoying a normal, quiet moment together. That’s how I like to think of Jesus, real, warm, caring, smiling, relaxed.

What is my recommendation? Run, don’t walk to the theater to see The Shack when it comes to your town. You don’t have to be a Christian to want to understand the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and how they interact with one another, or what it means to truly forgive, or how misunderstandings can grow and be harmful to those we love. This is truly a story for all, and for all time.


Quote of the Day: Thou art a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness; and Thou didst not forsake them. Nehemiah 9:17


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Charlie, My New Roomie

My life is for the birds. Well, one bird anyway--a tiny blue and white parakeet that I rescued from the county shelter two weeks ago. I had contemplated getting a pet to keep me company, but quickly discarded the idea of a dog (it would need to be walked and cleaned up after) and a cat (I’d have to deal with a litter box). Hence, a bird named Charlie fit the bill (no pun intended).  



I once wrote an article called, “I Gave My Husband the Bird.” Fred loved birds, so for Christmas one year I gave him a yellow cockatiel. She was part of our family for many years. This bird, which Fred named “Bird,” had the run of the house. A ladder from her cage to the floor gave her easy access to anywhere she wanted to go. She turned out to be my bird as she only acknowledged Fred during football season. Once he settled in his chair on Sundays with a bag of potato chips, she would hightail it over to him to beg for a chip.

Otherwise, she followed me all over the house, into the office, the kitchen, and at the dining room table where she’d grab a corn niblet off my plate. Her demise came one day when Fred moved to the right to avoid stepping on her and she moved to the right to avoid being stepped on. Talk about a perfect storm lining up!

After that, the house was way too quiet with two adults but no little four-ounce ball of fluff. Within a week, I dragged Fred to the bird store and we bought another yellow cockatiel that looked just like Bird. We named this one Crash because she slammed into the walls every time she took flight. The ladder was removed so she couldn’t get down to the floor as easily as her predecessor. When we moved from California, we gave Crash to a friend, assuming it would be better than moving her across the country.

It’s been over three years since the move. I realized I missed the chirping and personality of a bird. Not finding any cockatiels for sale in the area, I found Charlie, the first parakeet I’ve owned since high school. He’s still getting used to me and his surroundings and only occasionally chirps. Mostly, he sits on his perch, a very quiet roommate.

The shelter named him Charlie assuming he was a male; time will tell if they’re right. We thought the cockatiels were males, too, until they both started laying eggs.


So now I no longer ramble around the house alone; there’s someone else to talk to and whose needs I have to consider. I guess you could say I gave myself the bird--his name is Charlie.





Quote of the Day: My heart is like a singing bird. Christina Georgina Rosetti

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Job I’ll Never Get

Since this column is supposed to have something to do with writing, I'm confessing that I want to write commercials. Please allow me to vent for a couple of minutes as to why I say that.

I want to rewrite all the prescription commercials that bombard us day and night. I didn’t buy a television set to have it blare at me endlessly about diarrhea, constipation, impotence, light days, adult bed wetting, and on and on, ad infinitum.

During my career as a legal secretary, there was a time, back in the Dark Ages, when the Bar Association’s Code of Ethics said it was unbecoming for an attorney to advertise on TV or anywhere else. Maybe such advertising wasn’t unlawful, but it was frowned upon as leaning toward sleaze.  Then suddenly ethics went out the window and attorneys were allowed to advertise.

As strange as it seems to me to now see attorneys promoting their services, their ads are nowhere on the same level as those for drug prescriptions. Half the time you don’t know what the ailment is they're supposedly curing, but somehow you’re supposed to know you need the product. And since it’s only available by prescription, you are told to “ask your doctor.”

Aye, there’s the rub.  Since you must see your doctor to get the prescription, why in heaven’s name can’t your doctor tell you its horrendous side effects? Why do we have to hear that Product X can cause dizziness, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, impotence, diarrhea, bleeding, bruising, and every other horror you can imagine, ending with, “and possibly death.”

I can agree to hearing the adverse reactions of over-the-counter drugs since a buyer probably won’t take the time to read the enclosed instructions. But I’m talking about a drug that you can only get from your doctor and that doctor is supposed to tell you what might happen. If he or she doesn’t, then the pharmacist who fills the prescription is charged with explaining those dire facts to you.

I have a recent Woman’s Day magazine that has 140 pages; thirty of which are ads for prescription drugs. That’s nearly one-quarter of the magazine. It’s not cheap to advertise in magazines and on television, so perhaps if they omitted such ads, they could lower the price of their drugs. What a concept!

Let me write the ads. They would read: “Your doctor is far more educated than you, so tell him or her you have a problem, ask what medicine is recommended and what the side effects are.” Period.

That, I could live with. How about you?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Forced Do-Nothingness

It’s a new year! We may not have had a white Christmas but we’re sure having a white 2017. It started raining Friday, the 6th, turned into sleet, and by Saturday morning the world was white outside. Sunday the sun came out but the temperature had dropped, all the way down. Not only was I and the rest of Garner snowbound for three days, but the weather stayed below freezing the whole time.
It got down to eight degrees one morning. Consequently, the snow and ice didn’t melt. Today is the first day that the temperature got above freezing and I can start to see melting occurring.

I also got to go outside for the first time since Friday noon. I didn’t go far, but I did pick up three days of mail that had accumulated in my mailbox that’s around the corner and down the street. I felt like I’d been given early parole today when I walked out of the house for the first time in days. California was never like this; we could get our mail any day of the year.

The question is, would I rather be in sunny San Diego and not have to worry about ice and snow and below freezing temperatures, or in North Carolina where although it gets cold, it’s also three thousand miles closer to my family? This is a no-brainer, but I must admit that a couple of times these last few days I questioned my sanity in moving. We’re still ten degrees warmer than Connecticut where the rest of my family lives, so looked at that way, North Carolina, with some of my family here, still looks pretty good.

One advantage to being snowbound (granted by only two inches, but there IS ice underneath), is that I was able to get caught up on a lot of work at the computer, including working on my latest book in progress.

Those two inches closed schools, church, and planned activities. Everyone was warned to stay off the roads and not drive unless absolutely necessary. As long as I had food, milk, electricity, and heat in the house, I snuggled up and waited out the weather.

I keep telling myself, “This too shall pass.” If this turns out to be the only winter weather we get all year, I can live with that.

Quote of the Day: If winter comes, can spring be far behind? Shelley