Monthly Archives: January 2011

Devil Dog Bad, chocolate-eating gone bad

Standard

“The devil made me do it.” Flip Wilson

In our grocer’s bakery section, displayed in a glass along with other sweets, is the coast’s version of a Covered Wagon, a chocolate dessert only available, as far as we know, at McFarlan’s Bake Shop in Hendersonville, N.C.

The local knockoff is a close second to the original, and for sale close to home, which makes it almost as appealing.

Only thing is, the name is disturbing.

So disturbing that my husband asked, “Is that what they really call it?”

“Yeah. Why?”

He checked the container, as if I could make up a name like that.

Devil Dog, printed in black and white on the sticky label that sealed the box.

Those sweet little Covered Wagons traveled south, got bigger, and along the way, apparently earned a bad reputation. No other explanation for a name like Devil Dog.

Chocolate cake topped with dark chocolate icing. Full with white marshmallowy cream, and topped with a pink rose. Pretty to look at, even better to eat. And I’m sure, bad for you.

But devil dog bad?

Maybe so since chocolate is my addiction. I eat it to stuff uncomfortable feelings further down.To fill a void that feels bottomless. To keep from feeling at all.

If eating chocolate worked, I’d be the poster child.

Instead, emotional eating is a quick fix in the kitchen to something inside us that’s not so easy to fix.

So, that means I’m giving up chocolate? No, but I am more aware of why I eat. Chances are I’m munching my way through pain that chocolate can’t make go away.

How about you? Do you have habits that are devil dog bad?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – During cravings, I’ll think twice before eating chocolate, and twice as much about what’s going on with me.

Play on Saturday

Standard

“Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good.” Lucia Capocchione

Play on Saturday with Jeanie.

It was an odd entry on my to-do list.

The list that runs down the length of my desk. Onto the floor. Curls past my office door and into the hallway.

It’s long.

Just then, while thinking about the length of my list, I remembered that Jeanie and I planned to attend a play at the community theater on Saturday evening. How could I forget between the five articles due next week, six classes I had scheduled to teach around the same time, and fitting in conferences and observations with interns?

Play. Who has the time?

My husband and I discussed needing more playtime just last week, so it shouldn’t surprise me the word began showing up serendipitously.

We’ve justified all work and no play for years, and understandably since our jobs are fun. We both agree we’re grateful to get up every morning and do what we love. We’d do most of it for free if we didn’t need money to survive.

Still, we came to the same conclusion, “We need to play more often.”

The kind of play that does not include enjoying research for a blog post. Play that does not involve mowing the lawn because I like the smell of fresh-cut grass. Neither is it the kind of play that has us tiling a bathroom floor because we can’t wait to see the finished product.

Play.

Unproductive in light of my to-do list. Unrelated to any of my three jobs. Earns no money and may even spend a few dollars. Not allowed to improve our house, our budget, our landscaping, or my weight.

Play. Just for fun.

What do you do, just for the fun of it?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – It was refreshing to see the word “play” on my to-do list, and I’m delighted to see it showing up more often in my life.

 

Sorry, I Google

Standard

“We want to make sure the thing you’re looking for is on Google 100 percent of the time.” Eric Schmidt

I’ve spent a lot of time googling, even though when I started, it wasn’t a verb. 

And now, after all this time, the word continues to be a controversial one.

I’m typically a conformist when I think I might be judged, but not this time.

In my defense, I tried. 

“I went to Google to look it up” sounds okay, but I’m not sure about ending a sentence with a preposition.

“I pulled it up on Google” sounds more like I’m pulling up sagging britches than looking up information on a search engine.

“I searched Google for the topic” is just right, like the third bowl of Goldilocks’ porridge. Only thing is, I’ll never remember to speak formally about Google.

I’d rather google and be done with it.

What do you call your online searches?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I’m feeling like a laptop rebel these days. Thanks, Google, hear me roar.

On the side: I googled the scoop about googling. Click here to find out more.

Harmonic Balancer, there are birds under the hood of my car

Standard

The conversation went something like this … 

"I recognize balance when I swing by it." Anonymous (Photo by Gary Phillips)

“I recognize balance when I swing by it.” Anonymous (Photo by Gary Phillips)

Me: If it sounds like birds under my hood, what could it be?
Spouse: I don’t know.
Me: So, is it okay to drive it?
Spouse: Probably.
Me: There wouldn’t really be birds under there. I’d hate to…well, you know.
Spouse: No, it’s not birds.

I pulled over and popped my hood. No birds, no nest, not even a feather.

Next day, the conversation went something like this …

Me: It still sounds like birds under there.
Spouse: Well, honey, I don’t know what to tell you. Do you want to take it to Junior (our car guy)?
Me: Not really, but I also don’t want to listen to them chirping any longer. Plus, I don’t want to end up broken down on the side of the road.
Spouse: I hardly think birds are going to cause a breakdown.
Me: Well, that’s because you’re not driving around with them.

My husband drove my car that evening. Not a chirp.

Next day, the conversation heated up something like this …

Me: Birds!
Spouse: Fine, I’ll call Junior.
Me: Good. Let me know what he says.

An hour later, the conversation cooled down something like this …

Spouse: Sorry. I kind of blew you off. Junior said it’s most likely your harmonic balancer.
Me: Well, I could have told you that. My harmony is way off balance after driving this car around.

A tweet ending to the final day with my birds …

Junior replaced my Volkswagen’s harmonic balancer – a device that attaches to the front end of an engine’s crankshaft and is used to reduce and absorb the vibrations produced by the engine. Reducing the engine’s vibrations is vital to the life of an engine.

Thankfully, no animals or husbands were harmed in order to write this blog post. When I get wigged out, to this day I still say, “I think it’s my harmonic balancer.”

Is your harmonic balancer aligned?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – A noisy car gave me reason to think about what I do to balance my daily life. Reducing my head’s vibrations is vital to the life of my spirit.

On the side: Wigged out means “to freak out in such an uncool way.”

For more cool photography, check out Gary Phillip’s Facebook page.

*

Terms of Endearment, dogs have a way about them

Standard

“The bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth will ever be.” Konrad Lorenz

If there’s such a thing as a furry soul mate, Savannah is mine.

She’s a mixed black lab with pretty mismatched eyes, and she belongs to our daughter and her fiancé.

At first I missed this whole bonding thing we had going on. In fact, Savannah aggravated me a lot of the time.

She wants to be around people. All the time.

She wants attention. In big portions.

She wants love. Lots of it.

However, Savannah isn’t pushy like Tanner, their other lab mix who gets into staring contests to get his way. 

Savannah is subtle, giving quick walk-by licks unless I tell her “no.” In that case, she buries the top of her head into my leg. If I won’t let her bury, she mumbles something about “Is it so wrong to want a little love?”

She’s also the opposite of Tanner as far as hanging around. Tanner is usually off snoring in his sleeping bag or curled up in a chair he knows is off limits, but he goes there anyway. Savannah, on the other hand, lies on my shoes so she’ll know when I get up. That way she can lick me before she follows me into the next room and back again.

Told you! A photo from Christmas 2012, a year after writing this post.

Told you! A photo from Christmas 2012, two years after writing this post.

With all her idiosyncrasies, I’m not sure when I fell so deeply in love with her, but I did.

She and Tanner are like me and my brother when we were younger. My brother left the house and did whatever he did. As for me? I was home, lying on Mom’s feet. Not literally, but I was noticeably around.

I wanted to be near Mom. I tried to figure out ways to make her love me. I wanted her attention, and I talked non-stop to get it. So much so that I’m sure I was annoying.

Not much has changed since I’ve moved away from home except I’m older, I matured a little, and I’ve transferred my affection-seeking to my husband. Also, I’m a bit more accepting of personalities like mine and Savannah’s.

Aren’t pets the best for teaching us about ourselves? And about love? What have you learned from yours?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Savannah’s used-to-be annoying traits are now her endearing ones, as are mine. After all, love and attention are okay to want, true?

Dirty Little Fingers … analyze that!

Standard
What'd you say?

What’d you say? (Photo from iStock)

I’m not talking about a child’s handprints like you might surmise from the title, but my own dirty fingers – the ones that typed on the wrong keys and, oh, my …

I wouldn’t think of repeating the word that ended up smack dab in the middle of my laptop screen and center-stage the sweetest story about cupcakes.

I must have spent five minutes trying to figure out what I meant to type, what word would have mistakenly ended up spelling that word. I never did track down the accomplice.

While I was tracking, I was also replaying my Psychology 101 days. I did a quick review of analyzing by Sigmund Freud. who said our subconscious breaks through at unexpected times to give hints to what is going on deep inside us.

You’ve probably heard of Freudian slips, like saying “Sorry you had to stay” instead of “Sorry you have to go.” According to Freud, the slip came about because the visitor overstayed his welcome. Freud would theorize the first response as the true one.

I thought about my dirty little fingers. Was the first word I typed the true one? If so, what did it mean? 

Maybe I hate cupcakes? No, that couldn’t be.

I hate my new keyboard? I hate writing? I hate my life?

Then it came to me, maybe I think too much. Maybe I made a mistake when I was typing because, like I said, my fingers were on the wrong keys.

Do you overanalyze when life would be simpler if you didn’t?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Lighten up, will you?

Interview with Donn Taylor, Poet and more…

Standard

Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he completed a PhD degree at The University of Texas and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges. He has more than 20 years experience teaching poetry, including at conferences like Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

His poetry collection Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond was published in 2008. His fiction includes a suspense novel, The Lazarus File, and a light-hearted mystery, Rhapsody in Red. He has published essays on writing, literary criticism, ethical issues and U. S. foreign policy.

He and his wife live near Houston, Texas, where he writes fiction, poetry and articles on current topics.

       

Thank you, Donn, for joining us and taking time to answer our questions. Well-Written Days is honored to share one of your poems with readers. Drop by anytime with more!

Give us some background about your poetry writing – how long you’ve been writing poems, what style you write and where your poems have been published.

Although I wrote song lyrics as early as age 14, I only began writing serious poetry as a junior in college—not much of it, but some worth reading. Then there was a long hiatus during military service, graduate school, and college teaching. Only after retiring from teaching have I had time to write. My main effort has been fiction, but I also had to prove to myself that I could write good poetry. In style, I’m a rebel against most of the poetry being written in today’s graduate schools. Though I do write some free verse, most of my poetry uses traditional meter and often uses traditional forms. Meter gives an extra dimension of meaning that free verse doesn’t.

My poems have been published in Christianity and Literature, The Lamp-Post (journal of the California C.S. Lewis Society), Discoveries (published by South-Central Renaissance Conference) and similar journals, as well as general-audience publications like The Presbyterian Record (Canadian). Most recently, they’ve been collected in a book titled Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond. They are previewed on my Web site, http://www.donntaylor.com/, with links to buy through Amazon.

Who are your favorite poets?

Do you have enough space for me to answer? Virgil, Dante, Ariosto, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, George Herbert, Milton, Andrew Marvell (lyrics only), Tennyson, some of Arnold and Clough, E.A. Robinson, Frost, some of Archibald MacLeish, W.H. Auden.

Which is your favorite poem you’ve written?

As close to a single favorite that I have would be “Cosmos in Wartime.” Why? It is a tribute to the wives of military men in combat, including of course my own wife. For the wives are the keepers of the values their husbands are defending. I also think it has the soft sounds appropriate to the subject. Like all poems, it should be read aloud.

COSMOS IN WARTIME  (© 1996, Donn Taylor)

There at the center of the universe,
An ocean and a continent away
From where I labor, calm at end of day
Descends, drawn down by likeness, to immerse
Her house in tender truths till she rehearse
For children deep assurances that say,
“This spirit-night, no strife nor storm shall sway
These quiet cradles, nor the world amerce
Souls of these innocents for ancient wrong
As price for human essence wrenched awry.”
She speaks in trust that only grace allows,
Modestly unaware her softness, strong–
Stronger than stone or steel–holds up this house
In love, to let the house hold up the sky.

Which is your favorite poem by another poet?

Among other favorites, I keep coming back to George Herbert’s “Sin’s Round.” It treats a vital subject, the nature of sin, concentrated into 18 poetic lines. Beyond that, it’s a perfect example of poetic form becoming a part of the message. For that reason, I use it as the climactic example in my class on “Broader Horizons in Poetic Technique.”

What makes a good poem?

In most cases, an important subject presented in beautiful language. In certain cases—satire, for example—the language might need to be appropriately harsh-sounding. In comic poetry, surprise multi-syllable rhymes like Byron’s rhyming intellectual with hen pecked you all.

What suggestions do you have for someone who is at the beginning of his or her desire to write poetry?

Above all, read a lot of different kinds of poetry. Study books like Lawrence Perrine’s Sound and Sense, which explain and illustrate the fundamentals of how poetry works, and William Baer’s Writing Metrical Poetry, which contains practical exercises. Join a group of poets who’re willing to study and learn. And write, write, write. Any skill, whether it’s basketball, piano playing or writing, is learned through practice.

One other thought: Don’t try to write poetry in a hurry. If it doesn’t come out exactly right, set it aside and come back to it later. It’s not unusual for one of my poems to take months before I think it’s ready. A few have taken years. As the commercial says, “Sell no wine before its time.”

What’s the difference in poetry and let’s say, a company buying “poems” to put on greeting cards and bookmarks? Do you see this writing as similar or a far stretch?

Different kinds of poems have different purposes and audiences—everything from greeting cards to high school cheers to Paradise Lost. I don’t have a problem with this as long as the poem doesn’t pretend to be more than it is.

When writers want to sell their poetry, what suggestions do you have for them?

Selling is more difficult than writing, and each person has to blaze his own trail. It’s also labor-intensive. You use a reference like Writer’s Digest’s annual Poet’s Market or the poetry section of Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide to find publications you think might be compatible with what you’re writing. Then you buy sample copies to verify. Then you submit to a selection of those publications and keep a record of what you sent where. This is a tedious process that takes about a year to complete.

In your life, what does a well-written day look like?

If I’m writing poetry, I block out an entire morning to work—with no interruptions, I hope. (It helps to have an understanding wife who loves poetry.) The usual product is a number of fragments—a few good lines, some thoughts I’d like to work in if I can find words that fit, some good sounds I’d like to use. If I do this for several days, I usually have enough to scrape out a poem, though it may be weeks before it’s ready to bring out of the office. After such a morning, there’s no use trying to write, so I usually do light reading in the afternoon or work on honey-do’s around the house.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“Parkinson’s Law,” formulated by C. Northcote Parkinson: “Work tends to expand so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

On the side: For more, check out Donn Taylor’s website.

Well-Written Days’ 2010 Progress Report

Standard

Blog-Health-o-Meter™

 

Here are 2010’s highlights, brought to you by WordPress.com who sends an end-of-the-year report all about blogging. 

My favorite from the report said “Visitors came searching, mostly for quiet…”  

 

 

 

More highlights ~

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.comtwitter.comskimhenson.comfirefliesandmagnolias.com, and cjdarlington.com.

Blog-Health-o-Meter Reading ~

Wow. We think you did great!

Blog startup ~

July 4, 2010

Crunchy numbers ~

In 2010, you wrote 59 new posts, not bad for the first year! You uploaded 123 pictures, taking up a total of 25mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

Busyness ~

Your busiest day of the year was November 18th. The most popular post that day was Home and Heart Renovations .

Featured image

Other posts that received the most views in 2010 ~

Christmas Movies, Carols, Trivia & more
December 2010

Interview with C.J. Darlington, Part 2 – the art of writing
August 2010

Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness
September 2010

Thanks to all of you who read, laughed, cried, commented, encouraged, and then hung around for more. Looking forward to blogging through 2011!

God + Dog = Cats too?

Standard
The lump in the bed? Gator hiding from the ladies who were cleaning house.

The lump in the bed? Gator hiding from the ladies who were cleaning house.

We’re dog people.

Our daughter and her fiancé have two lab mixes, Tanner and Savannah. My husband’s brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews all own dogs. For the first time in 33 years, we don’t have one underfoot, but we’re looking for a Daisy dog.

So it’s hard to explain how we felt when there were murmurings our son was dating a girl who was owned by a cat. Let’s just say our reputation as dog people was obvious enough that Becky asked our son not to tell us about her cat.

“Let’s wait until they get to know me better. Until they like me, then we can tell them,” she said.

But since our family doesn’t keep secrets well, the cat was out of the bag in no time. I have to admit, I wasn’t convinced about the relationship (with the cat, that is) – I mean, really, why would a dog person even consider crossing that line?

I told my husband I thought our son’s infatuation was totally with Becky, not Bug, and that he’d come to his senses.

That was until the night I received cat photos, then emails from the cat. I had a conversation with Bug similar to ones I’ve had with our daughter’s dogs. When Becky rescued another cat, Gator makes two and it meant more cat pictures.

Before I knew it, I was buying cat toys. I added the cats to my website. wrote this post, even said out loud “I have grandcats.”

Then came the video of their fetching cat. I had to admit, out of character as it is for our son to post anything on YouTube, the cats were bringing out his humorous side, his lively side, his loving side.

“Whew, they’re gone!”

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I’m convinced dogs were intentionally, and for good reason, named after God. However, he also created cats (and mosquitoes, but wait, that’s not the point). I guess what I’m trying to say is God uses all his creatures for good. Somehow, in his purrrfect plan, Bug and Gator are bringing out the best in our son, bringing out the best in all of us.

A Different Way to Be Resolute, resolutions by force and by faith

Standard
"Unless you learn to act differently, do things differently and embrace change, you will stay where you are." Unknown

“Unless you learn to act differently, do things differently and embrace change, you will stay where you are.” Unknown (Artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts)

My husband and I are moving toward resolutions for 2011 we never would have thought to make without the help of a broken waterline.

Our home in Upstate South Carolina, the one we have for sale, ended up with puddles of water on the newly redone hardwood floors, as well as a soggy ceiling because the upstairs bathroom sprung a leak. We got the news from our realtor two days after Christmas.

On New Year’s Eve, we met with a contractor so he could give us an estimate to do the same kind of work we do for living. 

In the meantime, my husband called ahead and made reservations at our favorite hotel even though we could have camped out in the mess at the house. It’s not like us to pay for a room just so we can enjoy a hot shower, a good night’s sleep, and a continental breakfast before tackling the renovation or the decision to turn it over to someone else. We went with the latter because it made more sense than driving back and forth on weekends to complete the construction. Again, it’s out of character for us to hire out work.

We began our new year differently by keeping life simple and putting aside “We can do it ourselves.”

As a result, instead of tearing out sheetrock and hauling off wet debris, we spent the evening at our daughter’s eating homemade lasagna, drinking Chai tea lattes with her and her fiancé, and ringing in the new year with a game of Cranium.

Do you have things that need to be done differently in 2011? Are you willing to change?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Simplifying life and asking for help were not my original resolutions. I had in mind something like reading more fiction books and adding to my exercise routine. However, 2010 turned out better than expected when I paid attention to signs, wonders and God’s nudges (and leaks and puddles), so I’m starting 2011 doing the same.

On the side: Click here and enjoy more artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts.