Saturday, May 30, 2009

Crazy Turtle Lady

That's what many people call Suzan Lakhan Baptiste who has worked to save the leatherback sea turtle on Trinidad's Matura Beach. Every year, female leatherbacks return to the beach where they lay their eggs. They dig deep holes to deposit the eggs, a long difficult process that leaves them easy prey for poachers who kill them for meat, fins and eggs.

By the 1980s, nearly one in three turtles that nested on Matura Beach were killed. When the government asked for volunteers to help protect the endangered creatures, Baptiste stepped forward with several other people. They patrol the beach during the mating season to protect the turtles from poachers, and their efforts have been successful. Now, the leatherbacks are able to come to the beach to lay eggs and close to 100 percent of them survive.

What a wonderful accomplishment, and certainly worth remembering when we think that one or two people cannot affect a problem.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Promoting For Pennies

I am pleased to announce that I will appear on The Author Show on WNB, an Online radio and television station on May 29, 2009. This is a wonderful site that hosts authors of fiction and non-fiction, and a good place for authors to promote their work, fiction and nonfiction. The interview will run all day, so stop by at your convenience if you have a chance

Online marketing via virtual book tours and guest spots on Internet radio shows is an effective way to reach readers all over the world. And the real beauty of it is that you don't have to travel any further than to your home computer.

I did a virtual book tour in September 08 and saw the hits to my Web site double for several weeks, so I know this is an effective way to reach people.

I should also mention that I have purchased a number of books after following someone for a while on a virtual book tour. As Don McCauley of Free Publicity Group says, marketing it is all about building trust, and through a virtual book tour I have come to know authors well enough to become interested in their books.

Don McCauley is the host of The Author Show, and in addition to conducting a great interview, he offers writers a lot of free material to help them with their marketing efforts. It is a connection well worth making for any author who wants to promote for pennies.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

In a little cemetery in Fairmont, West Virginia there are headstones for a number of Van Gilder men who served in the U.S. military, going back to the Revolutionary War. I had the opportunity to go that cemetery two years ago for a reunion -- my father's family - and I was amazed to see so many military men noted. I felt both awed and thrilled to be in such company.

While I may not hold with killing and really wish there was some other way to handle global conflicts than war, there is something noble and stirring about the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

So I take this time to thank them for their service and remember all the military men and women in our family, both living and dead.

Thank you.....

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Beware of Goat Profiling

Another offering from my friend Tracy Farr... He really has a goat fetish...

I, like many of you, watch television whether or not there is anything good on, not because there isn’t anything better to do, but because it’s our God given American right to do it. But to be honest, I spend most of that time thinking about an epidemic that is sweeping the nation – an epidemic so profound, it could change the world as we know it. I’m talking about Goat Profiling.

Do you have any idea how many men and women have lost jobs just because their employer discovered they were raising goats? Me neither, but it’s bound to be huge. And what business is it to them anyway? Does raising a goat in the back yard solely for the purpose of getting rid of a few shrubs indicate that a person is a sub-standard worker? Of course not.

But word is out that some employers are outright asking in job interviews whether or not we have goats. Just ask Harold Bright.

“I went on a job interview the other day, everything was going great, and then the employer asked if I have goats,” said Bright. “When I indicated that I did, you could tell in his eyes that the interview was over. I never had trouble getting a job before I owned goats.”

In a recent survey, people who have a few goats in the back yard are half as likely to get a job than non goat owners, but it’s very hard to prove goat discrimination said Lawyer Judith Best.

“Every day we hear stories about men and women who are denied a job solely because they have goats,” Best said. “But in most states, it’s not illegal for employers to ask the goat question just as long as they ask it of all job applicants.”

And that’s what gets Harold Bright’s goat.

“Does the fact that I have a few goats make me a less-dependable worker? I don’t think so,” said Bright. “But until Congress passes a law stating that goat profiling is illegal, we goat owners will forever be passed over for employment.”

Do you believe you have encountered discrimination at work because you have goats? If so, call the I Have A Goat But No Job Hotline, and voice your concerns.
Stinky Creek Texas -- An equal opportunity employer

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Accidental Millionaires

I just read an item on CNN news online about a couple in New Zealand who have been dubbed the "Accidental Millionaires" after a bank employee mistakenly gave them NZ$10 million when they applied for a loan of just NZ$10,000.

This happened early in May, and apparently the couple have absconded with the money. New Zealand authorities have now asked Interpol to assist in locating the couple, who are believed to come from the resort of Rotorua and wanted the loan to buy a station there.

Wow! On a level of pure greed, I can understand this duo taking off to someplace where they can live in the lap of luxury with this windfall. The temptation is strong. Who hasn't dreamed of winning the lottery or inheiriting a fortune and planned all the wonderful things we could do with the money?

I've even been tempted on a smaller scale when given the wrong change at the grocery store. It would be nice to keep the few extra dollars. What could it hurt?

Well, it hurts the person who made the mistake. They will have to pay the shortage.

But it also hurts me if I'm dishonest. It takes a chink out of my character. And that is what this is about. I am dismayed that this couple did not have the strength of character or a sense of morality that could override the greed. Did they really think it was okay to take the money and run? Can they look at themselves in the mirror and feel good about what they did?

What about you? What would you do in the same situation?

But on another level, I'm dismayed that some sense of morals did not override the greed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

The power went out here for a couple of hours this afternoon, which sure messed with the plan I had for today.

We have had such beautiful weather the past few days, I have been outside in the mornings taking care of the gardens and picking berries. Then I come inside and start my day in the office about 10 0r 11. I schedule an hour or so to update and then I work on my latest book for at least an hour. After that, I try to update this blog, do some promoting, or prepare something for The Blood Red Pencil blog.

This afternoon, the minute the power went out and my computer sighed to a close, I was adrift. What can I do? I can't write without my computer.

I know, I know. Haven't I heard of pen and paper?

Actually, I have, and I even started out as a writer with notebook paper and a pencil. Then I graduated to a pen. But I have become so acclimated to writing directly on the computer that I'm stymied when I can't.

Kind of weird when you think about it. Tolstoy wrote War and Peace with a quill pen. You'd think we modern writers could suck it up and get out a ballpoint.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Miracle Cat Update

Orca, our injured cat I wrote about the other day, had his surgery and came home yesterday afternoon. He is already hobbling around and using that leg. Unbelievable. The leg is pinned with an apparatus on the outside that the veterinarian calls a Tinker toy. It looks ungainly and certainly has to be uncomfortable, but Orca doesn't seem bothered by it.

The other cats, however, are extremely bothered by it. They both - including Orca's mother -- hiss at him whenever we let him out of the bathroom where he is confined. We have to do that periodically just to save our sanity.

Orca is not thrilled with being locked up in a small space and lets us know in loud protests. That cat has the loudest meow I have ever heard, and when he's upset, he really cranks it up. He yowled most of the evening yesterday, and I had visions of him keeping us up all night, but thank goodness, he went to sleep and we didn't hear from him until early this morning.

Then he really wanted to go outside. I let him come out of the bathroom while I got his food and the pill I had to shove down his throat. Orca went to every door and meowed to go out. I think he wanted to use the great outdoors instead of the litter box -- he's always preferred that -- but he finally gave in when I put him back in the bathroom. A little later I checked and the box had been used.

He just gave me a look that said, "Okay. I did it. I didn't like it, but here it is. Are you happy? And who's going to clean up this mess. Certainly not me."

At least I think that's what he said. Cat speak is so hard to discipher.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Let's Sit Around and Do Nothing

Another piece of nonsense... er... great writing ... from my friend Tracy Farr:

People like Oprah are always busy, always doing something, always in the middle of whatever is going on because that's what they do, and to NOT do it would mean the end of civilization as they know it. To them, doing absolutely nothing is a fate worse than death.

Well, I've done absolutely nothing (many times), and I kind of like it.

It's not that hard to do absolutely nothing. You just get out of bed, fix yourself a huge cup of coffee (which sounds like you're doing something, but isn't), then find a comfy place to relax (a couch or wing-back chair would do fine) and concentrate! Yes, to do absolutely nothing requires concentration because what you'll WANT to do is think about what you SHOULD be doing -- and we can't have any of that!

In your mind you've got to forget about mowing the yard. Forget about paying the bills. Forget about calling your parents so they'll know you're still alive. Forget about the economy and Swine Flu. Forget about how good Marylou looks now and how you wish you'd dated HER in high school instead of Imagene. Forget about digital TV and iPhones. Forget about all the things that drive us absolutely bonkers but we put up with them anyway because "that's progress."

Yes, indeed. Doing absolutely nothing is not for wimps. And that's why you'll never see Oprah doing it!
Stinky Creek Texas -- Where we're experts at doing nothing!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Miracle Cat

We have this cat named Orca -- for obvious reasons -- and he has had a tough life for only being three years old. Of course, out here in the country the lifespan of a cat is much shorter than that of their city cousins. But we try to give them as much help as we can.

When Orca was just a kitten, he got into the engine of my husband's truck to take a nap and got caught up in the fan belt when my husband started the truck. Orca survived that, to the amazement of the farmer next door who came to help us get the cat out and to the vet who repaired the broken leg.

Last week, Orca disappeared late Monday afternoon. Well, actually we didn't know he had disappeared for sure until late Tuesday when he still had not come back to eat. He likes to go outside - preferring that to a litter box - and then there are all the moles and gophers and mice to hunt. But he doesn't often miss the feeding times with the other cats, so we started to worry that he met up with a coyote or a truck speeding down the road.

For three days we tried to keep the worry at bay and hold out a small hope that he might come back, but, by Friday, had to admit that probably wasn't going to happen.

Then late Sunday, we heard a mewing on the front porch, went to the door, and there was Orca. He sauntered in - as best he could saunter with a broken leg - went right to his food dish and asked for supper. He ate, then went to take a nap on our bed, as if nothing had happened.

We were in a state of shock for an hour or so, taking turns looking at him on the bed to make sure we weren't dreaming.

We weren't dreaming. Somehow he managed to suvive six days out there and didn't even look too malnourished. We couldn't see any other injuries, either, and he didn't seem to be in much pain so we didn't do an emergency vet visit, opting to take him in this morning.

Orca has a nasty, splintered break below the knee and a dislocated knee, so it is going to cost a lot to repair all that. We briefly considered not repairing it, but then we figured if this cat could survive a truck engine, another car accdent, and then being out in the wild for 6 days and avoiding coyotes and other predatory animals, he deserves the other seven lives he's got left.

That may not be practical, but sometimes it feels good not to be practical.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I would dust off a column I wrote when my children were young and I was writing for a Dallas publication. The sentiments are just as true today as they were those many years ago....
Chocolates all around. Enjoy!!!!
“Sunday is Mother’s Day and in this time of feminism and ERA it’s hard to decide what to write about. Do I mention all those hart-tugging gifts I’ve received over the years, like the dead tomato plant in a tin can and the wilted dandelions clutched tightly in a grubby little hand?

On the other hand, maybe it’s unfair to offer only one side of motherhood. Maybe I should say a word of two about all the daily frustrations that threaten to make me seek cover in the nearest rest home. The cleaning; the car pools; the laundry; the endless sibling infighting; more cleaning; and cooking and….

Who’s the joker who started the myth that housewives spend endless hours in front of the television eating chocolates? Not that it’s a bad idea. But let’s get real. The last time I watched daytime television I was sick with the flu and couldn’t have eaten a chocolate if Godiva herself brought me one.

While I’ve been trying to sort out all these things associated with motherhood, I keep wondering why there is so much unrest among women today, even those who have had a satisfying career outside the home before deciding to become full-time homemakers. Then I realized the unrest comes out of a loss of pride. Modern thinking has managed to strip us of any glimmer of the kind of pride our mothers could feel for their role.

It’s true that modern ideology still advocates free choice, but somehow the choice of full-time homemaker doesn’t garner the same respect and interest as choosing to be an astronaut. When was the last time an anecdote about your five-year-old drew a crowd at a cocktail party?

Under the circumstances, it’s no wonder women are in such turmoil. Society has force-fed us its version of the “modern woman” -- exciting, sophisticated, fulfilled, and working outside the home. So when a woman finds her fulfillment at home, she automatically starts questioning and comparing. That is especially true of the women who had a different career first.

As someone who has managed to straddle the fence for a number of years, I don’t feel qualified to advocate one over the other. I’ve managed to have the best of both worlds, and I must admit that my early success with writing came as a balm at a time when I felt like I was drowning in custodial duties for the family. But a painting class the year before had been just as therapeutic.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m a mother and homemaker first. And somewhere down the line when I may be sitting in a rocking chair looking back over my life, I think the dead tomato plant will mean more to me than my first paycheck as a writer."

I'm not dottering yet, but I do have a rocking chair, and the dead tomato plant does mean more to me than the first paycheck I received as a writer.

Wishing all the other mothers out there a day destined to be remembered with such fondness.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I saw this report on CNN Online and couldn't believe it....

"Wal-Mart has agreed to pay nearly $2 million and take extra safety precautions after a stampede killed a store employee in Long Island, New York last year. It happened as the store opened on the day after Thanksgiving last November, which is traditionally among the busiest day of the year for retailers.

Wal-Mart agreed to pay $1.5 million for community programs in Nassau County and another $400,000 to compensate people who were injured in the incident and repay them for out-of-pocket expenditures.

The retailer will implement a crowd management program at each of its 92 stores in New York for after-Thanksgiving shopping. The plan was developed by experts who have worked on crowd management at Super Bowls and Olympic Games. ...."

Okay, so a bunch of people act like maniacs to get into a store ahead of everyone else and the store has to pay? I remember when this was first reported last November and hints were given that it would go to litigation. Why not? Wal-Mart has deep pockets. But part of me was hoping the case would go in front of a judge who would see that THE STORE WAS NOT AT FAULT. (Pardon the shouting, but is this not ridiculous?)

Deep breath.... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Okay. Better now. Back to your regularly scheduled program.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Back Home Again

I returned from my long trip late yesterday afternoon, exhausted and glad to be home. The trip to Michigan was wonderful, and the birthday party for my mother was great. Everyone had a nice time, especially Mother who enjoyed visiting with children, grand children, great-grandchildren, other assorted relatives and friends.

One of the highlights of the party was a bag of old photographs my cousin brought. She and mother had a good time going through pictures and remembering. Later, some of the rest of us got to see the pictures, too. There were a number of pictures of my mother and her sister when they were young, as well as some shots of her parents and grandparents. They were cool to see.

It is always so nice to connect to the past that way, and sometimes I don't think we do enough of that. Or if we do, it is by dredging up past hurts and problems.

My sister and I tried to avoid that while I was there. We did spend some time reminiscing about our childhood while the three of us were sketching one day, and Mother commented that Nita and I were only talking about the good things. I don't think either one of us made a conscious decision to do that, and we certainly don't do it all the time, but it was healthy I think to focus on the pleasant memories.

At least it sure felt good to me.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Secret to Staying Young

Here's more fun from my friend Tracy Farr....

That’s right, I have the Secret To Staying Young. It doesn’t come in a bottle, it doesn’t come in a pill, and you don’t have to torture yourself with Richard Simmons tapes and Veggie Drinks. And, because you are my friend, I’m letting you in on the secret Absolutely Free!

And here it is: Get Off Your Buttocks And Do Something Different, Out Of The Ordinary, Something So Totally Unexpected That Your Friends And Neighbors Will Think You’ve Lost Your Ever-Loving Mind!

“But Tracy, how is THAT going to keep me looking young?”

Well, it won’t. You’re getting older and some of your parts have already packed up and moved south without you. But I didn’t say my secret would keep you LOOKING young. I said it will keep you STAYING young.

Researchers have learned that as you grow older, if you keep your mind active by learning new things and trying something different every now and then, you can keep your mind from turning into mush and squirting out your ear. And as far as I’m concerned, having my brain squirt all over my living room is not my idea of a good time. So, that’s why I’m learning to play the fiddle.

“Oh Holey Moley, Tracy, that’s what you told us LAST week!”

I did? You mean I’m repeating myself? Oh no, my mind is already turning to mush! I feel the squirt a comin’. It’s comin’ round the bend. And I ain’t seen the sunshine since....

Oh no! Now I’m quoting Johnny Cash songs! It’s too late for me. I’m all mush. Save yourselves! Go bungee jumping! Skydiving! Learn to speak Chinese! Do anything to keep your mind strong and active as you approach old age and beyond.

Just do me one favor. Remember me. Remember me as the guy who kept your brain from squirting all over the place. Remember me, because Heaven knows I won’t be able to.


Stinky Creek Texas -- Where we don't have mush

Friday, May 01, 2009

Help For Addicts

There is an interesting article on CNN Health about new medications to help treat addictions. It's well worth the read for anyone who has dealt with addictions or knows someone with an addiction problem. This new treatment sounds promising.

However, one statement in the story caught me up short:

These findings highlight what's become increasingly clear: Addiction is a brain disease, not just a failure of willpower.

Are there still people who don't realize that? It has been scientifically proven for decades that addiction is an illness, not a human weakness. Sure, it does take some strength of character to acknowledge the illness and seek help, but it is still an illness.

The article describes two drugs that have been used successfully to curb the urge to drink. The drugs, naltrexone and topiramate, block the release of brain chemicals that are linked to pleasure., and people in the research study known as COMBINE report that they no longer even have the urge to drink.

Traditional rehab programs such as AA and Betty Ford advocate behavioral therapy combined with a spiritual component but don't use drugs. Experts there say the drug therapy doesn't address all those component, so maybe a combination of approaches would have the most success.

Whatever path is chosen by an addict, it is important that the people he or she meets along that path treat understand the disease and treat the patient with dignity.