Pardon me, I seem to have a frog in my throat

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My blogging has ground to a halt, a dangerous thing to happen to a blog. The thing is, there have been a series of events that seem to have…stolen my voice.

(WRITER WHINING ALERT!)

First there was Camp NaNoWriMo. I was busy being a novella writer and, I know I’ve mentioned this before: I’m a horrible multi-tasker. So July, no blogging.

After the full month’s break from my romance novel, I decided to try a contest. One of those ones where you submit your query and first chapter and hope for…something. I had no illusions, no realistic thoughts that I would get picked. My bar was set low. Submit. Practice sending my work into the wider world.

But then, all around me, writers started hearing back. Acceptances, or reasons why their particular story wasn’t accepted. People who got accepted by one judge got feedback from others as to why that particular judge had declined the submission. People who didn’t get accepted received emails from their chosen judges anyway. Sentences, some even paragraphs, of feedback.

Now this is not “part” of the contest and I had no reason whatsoever to expect anything. Feedback is something extra the judges may or may not choose to do. But I let hope take over and my goal shift. I wanted feedback. Was it the query? The premise? The writing that didn’t click? I heard from one of four of the judges I submitted to, a one-sentence reply I clung to like a rescued baby mermaid, and I hoped I’d get a little something more from the others. Something. Anything.

But no. Crickets.

Hope turned to brussels sprouts in my mouth. I reminded myself I had expected nothing. Told myself I was being unreasonable, unprofessional. Admonitions morphed into the conviction that I couldn’t handle the rigors of the publishing game, where success equals an even lower batting average than in baseball. I wasn’t cut out for this, and obviously, my story was dog poo because no one could find the wherewithal to even send me a little note.

(I gather this bleak state is one writers sink into quite readily.)

I convinced myself nothing would come of my book, and stopped writing altogether. No novel, no novella, no blog. Intellectually I knew nothing could come of a book one didn’t SUBMIT. But like Ramona the Pest, I crossed my arms and stomped my foot. Figuratively, but still…Yes, I am childish.

And then, In the midst of this self-immersed, apocalyptic doomscape, I received a horrible text message. One of my sorority sisters, Maria, who had been battling a rare—and incurable—form of cancer, was in the hospital, her family by her side. My world stopped. Everything went into suspension.

I saw her in January, lively, vibrant, laughing, drinking wine with her sorority sisters and sharing a wonderful, loud, chatter-filled meal. It was as if we were back in the big dining room at the ADPi House eating, talking, laughing. That wonderful night I forgot Maria had cancer, that her prognosis was dire. There was no way the woman I saw was going anywhere but back home to raise her boys to adulthood. She’d outlived her diagnosis by more than a year, after all.

A day after the text message, confirmation came. Maria had taken her eternal flight.

What were my petty complaints compared to the death of my friend, for God’s sake? What of Maria’s sons being left without their mother, her husband left without his wife, her family left without their daughter, their sister. Grief grabbed hold of me and squeezed. Maria had bugged me and bugged me about reading my book; I’d wanted to have her read it before cancer took her away. Chalk up another unmet goal.

Where before I was childish, now I was breathlessly mute.

I’ve lived a pretty charmed life, haven’t often been touched closely by death or grief. I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt like the pebble that starts the snow ball that becomes the body of the Guiness Book of World Records-sized snowman. One thing after another just seemed to layer onto my woes. My words felt small and stupid and unimportant. I lost a dear friend. And my will to say anything.

It’s been a rough month and a half, but slowly the metaphorical sun has started to shine and I’ve started to poke my finger through the slush that was the snowball. The words are building up inside me again. I still have a frog in my throat, but I have a lozenge on my tongue.

I think the sunshine is Maria. Maybe she got in my subconscious ear to remind me of something important: I have to keep going. I can still hit a goal, albeit a revised one. She may not hold my book in her hands, but if I send it out into the world again, somewhere in the great universal ether, Maria will know she helped bring it to fruition. I’m holding on to that.

May the universe embrace you and wrap you in the joy you gave to everyone you touched on this earth, Maria.

Maria Sofia Rimkus 1964-2014.

Maria

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Ziggy, JRT NBK

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??????????I love nature, I do. I live in a place that’s pure suburbia, but surrounded by woods. We have all sorts of regular wildlife making our yard, and the surrounding environs, home. Squirrels, racoons, rabbits, deer are all regulars. I had a coyote stop by my yard a few weeks ago. (That was a bit of a shocker since it was 10 in the morning, but s/he was a gorgeous thing, and the dogs were in the house so I simply admired it from 20 feet away.) We also have more varieties of birds than I can count. They love to nest in our trees, use our bird bath and, in the case of the hummingbirds, wage constant war over my flowers.

The trouble is, I have two terriers. NBKs. Natural Born Killers. Complicating matters is that bird-brain is a saying borne out of reality. Chickadees, in particular, seem…well, let’s just say they won’t be wining the Nobel Prize for science any time in the next million years. For whatever reason, these birds love to build nests where they shouldn’t. In my flower pots (where their eggs are soaked with cold water every other day even though I try to avoid watering the nest), in low azalea bushes and, this year…

I ask you, is this the face of a murderer?Zig computer

I saw the birds coming and going, foolishly hoped they weren’t really building a nest on the ground. Newp. The baby birds must have hatched today, because for more than a week, Ziggy has trotted right by the activity without twitching a nostril. But today, like a cartoon terrier stopping in its tracks, body all a-quiver, he stuck his nose right in the groundcover and hauled out the nest, spilling baby birds as he ran. Before I could stop him, one was…shall we say, unrecognizable when he spit it out. The other two were face down on the grass. Ziggy wasn’t eager to surrender his prize but I managed to cover the (possibly alive) hatchlings with the lid of my hose container and get him into the house. By the time I got back to check on the stranded ones…OH, NATURE! YOU CRUEL MISTRESS!

Of course, Ziggy was acting in his nature, too. I don’t fault him, I just wish he wasn’t presented with the opportunity. Every. Single. Summer. It leaves me nauseous every time.

Okay…so maybe he’s…sort of…SQUIRREL!

Ziggy Tree Climber cropped

Sorry Chickadees.

 

 

In Loving Memory of Two Good Dogs

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Duke

On Monday, my sister-in-law’s dog, Duke, passed away. He’d been ill for a short while, and when the diagnosis came last week, it was the worst news. Advanced cancer. He wasn’t quite ready to go–he still menaced the rabbits in the yard, and brought Karen his tennis ball, still wanted to go on walks, albeit slower ones. But he couldn’t eat, and the day came when the tennis ball was ignored and the painful decision had to be made.

My heart aches for my sister- and brother-in-law, and for my nephews, who’ve lost a loyal and loving family member.

Woody

Woody

Their loss also brought back vivid and visceral memories of our first Jack Russell Terrier, Woody, the first dog I ever owned. We picked him out as a puppy when our son was 2, because, I rationalized, a boy needs a dog. But the boy didn’t get the dog. I did. Woody came with me everywhere. He was my shadow. He cuddled the boys because he knew they were special to me, and sat curled in the triangle I’d make of my legs every time I relaxed on the sofa. On leash-less walks he never wandered more than a few paces from my side, always in view—his view. Because, while I thought I owned him, he thought he owned me. He trained me up just right.

He got very suddenly ill, sepsis set in and within 24 hours of first recognizing he was sick, he was gone. But thankfully I was there at the end. I’d been working at my kids’ school, so I missed the first call, when his lungs failed and his heart stopped, but the emergency vet, angel that she was, kept him on life support and kept calling, so I could say goodbye. I petted him and told him I loved him. I wanted to be sure the last words he heard from me were ones I knew he’d understand:

You’ve been a good dog, Woody.

And you were a good dog, too, Dukie. May you both be chasing rabbits and squirrels to your heart’s content, and if, perchance, we  see you once again, you can be sure we’ll have treats in hand and a loving caress for our loyal companions.

Duke, d. April 27, 2014

Woody, d. June 7, 2005