#SoCS – 5/19/18 – Stories of #Appalachia – The Postman and the Dog

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Up until I was in my 20s, my uncle lived deep into the Birch Branch hollow  (pronounced “holler” in the eastern Kentucky dialect). He lived in a cabin and with him lived his female Doberman Pinscher, Gertrude. For awhile, he also had a male Doberman Pinscher named Sue, after Roger Miller’s song, “A Boy Named Sue.”

But this story is about Gertrude. My uncle was a postal service worker in Magoffin County, Kentucky. He delivered mail and Gertrude accompanied him. Mail carriers in rural areas tend to drive slowly between stops and my uncle certainly did. One reason he drove slowly is because of where Gertrude rode in/on the station wagon that he drove. She rode on top of it. My uncle and Gertrude were something of a legend in Magoffin County because this was quite a sight to passers-by.

My uncle passed away in 1974 and left poor Gertrude behind. She was old then and very bonded to him. She lived the last years of her life on my cousin’s porch, in a cushy dog house, undoubtedly grieving for my uncle. She was bonded and there was little to do for her although my cousin certainly tried.

A man and his dog.

#SoCS – 04/21/2018

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My writing muse spoke to me today for the first time in weeks. When I’m dealing with the intricacies of life, I’ve found that the muse escapes me. If there are situations in my life that demand my attention, I feel my creativity slipping away. Those mundane situations sap any creative impulses that normally motivate me to write. When I realize that is happening, it’s very disturbing to me. I’ve been writing since I was nine years old. It’s how I’ve always dealt with stress and stretched my mind.

Recently, I’ve been juggling a lot of balls in my non-writing life. I’ve been too busy to write. My day doesn’t seem complete unless I can write, but there haven’t been enough hours in the day. I’ve ended my days very frustrated because I haven’t written a word.

When I feel like this, I try to take a few minutes to do some writing-related tasks. I’m in the middle of a novel, so I do some editing. I also read. I try to pick books that, for example, are good character studies or have excellent plot lines so I can get better at both techniques. I want to write some short stories, so I’m reading the latest collection of short stories compiled by the “Pushcart” collection. I also read the Writer’s Digest magazine and other publications on writing techniques.

What do you do when the writing muse isn’t with you?

#SoCS – 02/03/2018

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Dogs are not dollar signs. This is both a personal stream of consciousness post and a sort of public service announcement/op-ed piece. In other words, you have found me up on my soap box today.

Yesterday, I had to have my beautiful little dog, Hanna, put down. Hanna was not yet a year old. A little more than a year ago, I had to have my sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel put down. Betsy was only four and a half years old. Why did Betsy and Hanna have to die so young? Because of poor breeding practices by the purebred breeders from which they came. Neither did any sort of genetic testing. Both were irresponsible.

Hanna’s breeder decided to develop a “designer” dog and mixed two purebred breeds. To my knowledge, they did no genetic testing. In doing that, they created puppies with extreme fear aggression who couldn’t learn and who were fear biters and worse. They didn’t know what they were doing. It wasn’t Hanna’s fault. She should never have been born.

In Betsy’s case, she developed a fatal genetic disease called syringomyelia that was incredibly painful. It could have been avoided by genetic testing and Betsy would never have been born and would never had to endure the pain she endured.

Both breeders saw dollar signs instead of sweet puppies.

I don’t pretend to know the answer to this problem since breeders of purebred dogs are not subject to any sort of controls by any governing body except the American Kennel Club and various regional clubs that set the breed standard and govern showing purebred dogs. Unless the various breed-specific clubs impose some sort of rules and sanctions, there are purebred dogs that are going to become extinct. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, for example, is thought to have about fifty percent of dogs carrying the gene for syringomyelia, the condition that killed Betsy. Many breeds are known to be fear aggressive, like Hanna, and the condition is almost impossible to treat. The dogs have to be put down. I could cite many more examples.

Be very careful if you buy a purebred dog. Question the breeder about their breeding practices. Ask about genetic testing. Ask if they offer a health guarantee. Don’t just fall in love with a puppy, pay a huge price, and walk away. Ask questions. Get guarantees. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a lot of vet bills and a broken heart.

Recover – #SoCS – 01/06/2017 and #JusJoJan 2018

She sits and wonders if she can ever financially recover from the devastation he has caused due to this fraud of a second marriage. That’s what it had been. A fraud. A marriage for financial gain under false pretenses. She was so stupid. She had fallen for all the old, “I’ve changed,” clichés. She’s not even thinking about the emotional damage he’s inflicted. That’s a given. The financial impact is huge and will be worse.

He was a gambler but he had quit before they reunited. He had also quit drinking. She knew both had been hard for him. She had watched him struggle. Now she knew why he had done it. He was looking for a bigger payoff. Except he couldn’t wait. He’d thought that her illness was so severe when he had learned about it before they remarried that she surely would not survive very long. It only goes to show you that he didn’t know her very well. After all the years he had known her, he knew so little about her.

He didn’t know that she was already in the process, before they got together again, of grabbing that illness and wrestling it to the ground, getting it under control. It had been the hardest thing she’d ever done, but it was still under control and she would keep it under control. He knew it. He grew tired of waiting for her to slip up, for her to let it get the best of her, for her to die.

He decided to give that illness a little nudge. He was still nudging it, even from afar. Still hoping for that ultimate financial payoff. But, this time, she would win.

 

This post is part of Linda Hill’s JusJoJan and Stream of Consciousness challenges.

#SoCS – 12/30/2017 – Resolution

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When Linda asked us to respond to the prompt “resolution” for this weekend’s #StreamofConsciousness challenge, it was easy for me to instantly know what I would write about and I decided to let my consciousness just go ahead and stream.

For the first time in over nine years, I will spend 2018 living alone, except for my little dog, Hanna. This coming year, in fact, will be only the second time in my life I’ve ever lived alone, the other time being from 2000-2007. It’s been a long time and, in the month I’ve lived alone so far, it’s been a big adjustment. Just finding out I would be alone was the result of a shocking turn of events in my life. I doubt that I’m over that shock yet. I don’t think we know when shock goes away, do we? I think it ebbs away from our subconscious minds, and perhaps our conscious minds as well, very gradually.

Since I lived alone for a few years in the past, I do know a bit of what to expect. From a practical point of view, I have to get back to taking care of my home on my own again which is no small feat. I’m used to sharing chores and now all the chores are mine, both indoor and outdoor. The first week was hard. Then, I remembered how I’d done everything in the past and, since then, it has become easier by the day. I still have a lot to remember. Things that just haven’t come up yet.

I have business I’ve had to take care of and, of course, I want to continue writing. Blogging, magazine articles, website articles and copy, and finishing up some long form writing projects I have going. A novella. Two actually. Maybe another novel. I want to also work on a serial. I may go back to online teaching in a semester or two.

Besides the practical side of life, there is the emotional aspects of living alone. I don’t really get lonely, so that’s not much of a problem for me. As an only child, I learned to entertain myself and those skills carried over to adulthood. I work from home a lot. It takes time to take care of my home, both inside and out. The business aspect of life takes time. I also have excellent friends. Then there is Hanna, my dog, who definitely takes time. I’m training her to be a good companion dog. By the time I accomplish all this in a day, the day is done.

I do still have to deal with the shock and emotional trauma that precipitated my change in living circumstances. That’s not going to be accomplished overnight. In fact, it will take a long time, if I ever feel free of the events of the past two months.

So, my resolution for 2018? Quite simply, survival. I don’t think it’s a resolution that will be forgotten the first couple of weeks of the year.

#SoCS – 10/28/17 – Creativity

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Which should I take, the black or the navy? That was one of the questions I asked myself as I packed my clothes last evening. I am soon off to the ocean and, along with color-coordinating my wardrobe, I found myself thinking about all kinds of things while packing. One of them was how busy I always am and how I look forward to my months by the sea. My thoughts aren’t exactly rocket science, but I do want to share them with you. The busier I get, the less creative my writing becomes. My inner finance professor is screaming at me to call that a negative correlation. The writer in me simply calls the lack of creativity a problem.

My months at the ocean are a time when my life slows down and simplifies. I’ve always thrived on being busy and the complexities of life. As I’ve taken up this career of writing, particularly the writing of fiction, I’ve found that my previous way of life doesn’t work as well for me. Being busy and having a complicated life does not foster creativity. My head is simply too full of the details of my life for creativity to find a foothold. Perhaps that’s why my first career was in finance. Numbers and even the explanation of what those numbers mean do not require much creativity. They are right or wrong with explanations that are obvious. There may be a bit of creativity, but not much.

My creative outlet during my years as a finance professor was primarily music. Specifically, playing piano, generally classical music. I could lose myself, and everything that was in my head, during hours at the piano. I always wrote, but during those years, I wrote either academic writings or non-fiction.

Fiction writing is a completely different experience. Unless I give myself time to be quiet and still, to slow down and make myself feel instead of think, then the creativity needed to write fiction just doesn’t come. This is a tough gig for someone like me. Being still and letting myself feel is a new experience and I’m not very good at it. Developing these skills makes me feel vulnerable. Out of control. I haven’t allowed myself to slow down and feel in a very long time. It’s scary.

Scary or not, writing fiction makes it necessary. So soon, I’m off to my island in the sun. To experience a slower life where I don’t live inside my head quite so much. Instead I let myself have new experiences and actually feel the feelings they arouse. For me, that’s what arouses the passion that it takes to write good fiction. We’ll see what I come back with when I incorporate it into the books and stories I’m writing. Perhaps I’ll even come back as a more well-rounded human being again?

SoCS

 

 

#SoCS – 9/30/2017 – Mountain Dew

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When I was growing up in northeastern Kentucky, I was fortunate enough to know my grandfather, who lived deep in the heart of Appalachia. He lived only until I was 23 years of age, but I was lucky enough to be old enough to have talked to him. Really talked to him. Conversations that, to me, were important. He was a fine man. Moral, ethical, smart. I’d like to write about him and men like him some day.

There were so many things that I never had the chance or knowledge to talk to him about. My mother, his daughter, told me stories about him. Not enough stories. I wish I knew more. One story that she told me was that my grandfather was determined that she and her seven siblings would never be involved in two endeavors that were prominent in those days in southeastern Kentucky. They would never work in the coal mines and they would never be engaged in the production of “mountain dew.”

Mountain Dew. Not the soft drink. Mountain dew is the slang term for homemade liquor or moonshine, corn liquor, hooch, and a dozen other names. Southeastern Kentucky was “dry.” In other words, liquor could not be sold legally. People made their own and made it for other people. There were stills to make the liquor hidden all over the mountains that were characteristic of the area. Moonshine is 100 percent alcohol and is still made in those mountains.

My grandfather was successful. All of his children left the area, at least long enough to get a college education. My grandfather, himself, got what passed for a college education in his day and was an advocate of higher education for his entire life.

#SoCS 9/23/2017 – Hot/Cold

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When a writer is running hot on a writing project, it’s easy to write. The ideas are coming hard and fast. Creativity is at its highest. Everything is going well. You’re not always running hot. Sometimes, either you or the project grows cold for no particular reason. Burnout may be the case if it’s a long project. When that happens, it may be time to switch projects for a while. Writers usually have several going at once. A couple on the front burner. A couple on the back burner. Several in the desk drawer. That’s the case with me.

I’m in the middle of a long writing project that’s grown a little cold to me. It’s sagging. I’m not sure of the direction I want to take. I feel my creativity flagging. My ideas are not flowing as freely. My characters are getting boring to me. So, I’m going to shove it to the back burner for a month or two. I’m going to see if I get my enthusiasm back for the project. It’s a project that’s important to me, so I am, in fact, sure that I will. I need some thought, some new sources of inspiration, some time to sleep on it, some time to think of the direction I should take. Such a thing often happens to a writer in the middle of a novel or in the middle of any long writing project. You lose your way. Particularly if it is a complex story, with lots of characters and subplots. Mine is that – a complex story.

While I work on getting my mojo back for my long project, I’m going to tackle a shorter project. I think it’s going to be a novella. Novellas seem to be gaining popularity among the reading public as we have less time and more commitments. After doing my market research, there are new publishers out there for this shorter work. I’m not going to give too much away about my project, but I’m excited about it. I have a good idea which may actually dovetail into my longer project.

Stay tuned!

 

#SoCS – 9/16/2017 – Gratitude

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Gratitude is an emotion I don’t think I express often enough. Tonight, I feel gratitude, but a range of other emotions as well. I’m grateful that I’ve been lucky enough to find out that my little home in South Florida only sustained minor damage from Hurricane Irma. There was some minor outside wind damage. Nothing that isn’t fixable. I hope there isn’t any damage on the inside. It, according to a friend and neighbor, doesn’t seem to have had any roof leaks. I think I dodged a bullet where some, where I live, weren’t so lucky. The infrastructure on my island is having a little more trouble getting up and going. The National Guard has been called in to help folks out with issues like food, water, and ice, along with getting the power and water back on.  This is on one little island off the Florida Coast. Extrapolate that to the entire State of Florida, very little of which was spared. When we can go back is anyone’s guess.

Along with grateful, I’m also puzzled. I’m hearing very little news coverage of the cleanup and fixup efforts in Florida and Texas. Considering that Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey affected something close to 15 million Texans and Floridians, not counting us snowbirds, I don’t quite understand this. Where is the national news coverage? Cities in Florida were devastated. We all know about Houston. The Florida Keys are a news story themselves. If I’m missing something, including the right news coverage, someone please point me in the right direction. I watch very little television and almost no frivolous television, so maybe I am missing the coverage I would like to see.

I’m also sad tonight. I have heard some disparage others who have second homes in South Florida that they either lost or that sustained damage. Maybe that seems like excess to some folks, or conspicuous consumption, but as someone who has a very small and modest second home there, I would like to say a word about it. I worked very very hard for many years in order to be able to afford to live in Florida during a few winter months each year. It took a lot of education and even more years of hard work. I’m sure I’m speaking for many people with second homes in another state. Others could have worked as hard as I did and reaped the same rewards. It is unnecessary and cruel to celebrate loss of property for people who spent their whole lives working for it. Rant over.

#SoCS – 9/9/2017 – Motive

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What a bad time for me to write a stream of consciousness blog post! There is only one thing streaming through my consciousness and that is the situation in Florida and the Caribbean islands due to #HurricaneIrma. I suppose my motive for writing this post at all is a bit of catharsis. You see, the hurricane is about to come roaring up through the Florida peninsula, clinging to the Gulf Coast, and I own property on a barrier island off the Gulf Coast. Chances are, nothing will be left after being touched by a Category 5 hurricane.

My own property isn’t my only motive in writing this blog post. I also want to call attention to the 5.6 million people who have had to be evacuated out of Florida. That is a huge number of evacuees for me to wrap my mind around. There is going to be massive property damage in Florida and many of these people may not be able to go home for a while. Just like the people of the U.S. have helped the people of Houston after Hurricane Harvey, please help the displaced people of Florida who are victims of Hurricane Irma.

Now to continue to sit, wait, and watch the Weather Channel (and the weather online). It’s a bit like watching a train wreck and not being able to look away.