Thursday, June 30, 2011

Time to Tweak My Book Lists

The lists I keep on Lull tell an abridged story. My reading extends beyond the books and magazines listed.

The only publications I post have been read cover to cover. However, some magazines have but a few articles that engage me, so they don’t get listed. Likewise, some anthologies contain but a few stories that interest me, so the book title fails to get listed.

This method is flawed. I’m going to start posting the shorter works I’ve read. Here’s why:
1. To list only books excludes other writing genres that deserve just as much recognition.
2. Listing the shorter works helps me keep track of authors—to read more of their short-form writing, or to look into their other genres, or to avoid them in the future.
3. Some Lull readers don’t have time for books. Short works fit better into their hectic lifestyles.

A few books have become permanent fixtures on the Current Reading Lineup and they’re really starting to bug me. I started all of them, but for one reason or another, they no longer hold my interest. I intend to finish them some day—just not now. I think I’ll keep a tab running on Books Not Completed. This, too, may change at some point. I may not be able to face a list of “failures” every day.

Perhaps you never look at the book lists (in which case, my apologies for this post). That’s okay. I realize I provide no recommendations or reviews or summaries. But you can find those all over the Web. My lists are merely ideas for you, and an inkling of where my head is at month to month. I’ll keep the lists going if only for my benefit.

“We read to know we are not alone.”
—C. S. Lewis

May whatever you’re reading now bring you pleasure, or wisdom, or both.

[Pictured is the outer wall of the library parking garage in Kansas City, MO. Photo by Jonathan Moreau.]

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Feeling Good By Doing Good

Earlier this month I asked Lull readers to help send food to animal shelters in tornado-struck Joplin, Missouri. The amount of kibble raised—661,300 pieces, equivalent to 66,130 clicks—wasn’t enough to get the match from Halo, the supplier of the food, but it was probably enough for several days of meals. (I’ve asked FreeKibble for meaningful numbers, i.e., bowls rather than tons or pounds or millions of pieces, but I haven’t heard back yet.)

Since then, you probably heard about the blowout adoptathon for the animals that drew people from across the nation to Joplin. It was a huge success, yet hundreds of pets remain there without a home.

Like the animal shelters in Joplin, every rescue operation in America could use some help in keeping critters fed. So I’ve added the FreeKibble buttons to Lull—beneath the purple paw. Click on each of them daily to donate food (or more frequently if you’re so inclined).

Each site gives something in return: Through the purple paw you can pause to read a short, uplifting rescue tale; through the FreeKibble quiz you might learn some trivia about canines and felines. And, of course, there’s that unquantifiable sensation of having made a difference in the world, which is a great way to either start your day or end it. As Lull reader M. K. wrote to me recently:

“I start my day every morning going to both of the food for animal shelter sites, so even if the rest of the day sucks I know I’ve done something good.”

So go ahead and Make My Day … by feeding the homeless. It’ll make your day, too.

[Pics from]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Match Made In Heaven

Remember Hank?

He was rescued in the California desert, 100 miles from his home. His human companion had died, but these were the only details his microchip revealed.

Don’t you wonder what happened to Hank after he lost his person? Did anyone take him in? Did someone dump him? Where was he headed when he set off on his trek? Had he visited the desert before? Or was he roaming with no particular destination in mind? How many people saw him? How many tried to help him?

He’s a friendly bloke, as you can see in these photos with a friend—eager to please, a glutton for affection.

Hank’s big personality won someone’s heart this week, someone whose heart had been wounded by the recent loss of his one-and-only canine companion.

It’s coincidence, of course. Any one of us could have fallen for the golden boy of Chow Chow heritage. But we like a good story, don’t we, sprinkled with a dash of mystery?

What better story could there be than two creatures, each recovering from a significant loss, who are celestially guided (by the ones they lost?) to each other? One hundred miles toward love. One hundred miles toward home.

Hank really has something to smile about now.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Changing Bully Behavior, One Bully at a Time

ullies are everywhere: the classroom, the workplace, the Internet, your neighborhood. They come in a complete spectrum of shape, size, age, and species.

Bullies targeted me as a child—called me names, flung me to the ground by lassoing my legs, commanded a dog to attack me, lit a match and threatened to set my new dress on fire. I took it and didn’t snitch on anyone. (With the exception of the dog incident, which required a trip to the ER for stitches.) I never harbored any ill feelings toward my abusers, but I never forgot what their abuse felt like.

However, I’ve recently observed bullying and I can tell you that watching it happen is entirely different than being on the receiving end. I angered quickly and felt compelled to take action.

The bully on my short list is a house sparrow.

Remember the feeder we purchased? It’s been a successful diner for tree sparrows, wrens, song sparrows, vireos, cardinals, chipmunks, purple finches, and one bad-to-the-bone house sparrow.

If he’s perched on the feeder, he screams or bats his wings at other birds trying to get a place at the table. If other birds are already on the feeder when he stops by, he grabs their tail feathers in his beak and pulls them off, or he hovers above them and punches their backs with his tiny feet.

I tried a Pollyanna-ish reprimand to no effect. I clapped my hands, which scared all the birds. Then, finally, I tried what turned out to be the Holy Grail of Weapons: a fake cardinal.

It’s a small stuffed animal that my pooch saw in a shop window years ago. She liked it even more when the shopkeeper showed her how it “sang” when squeezed. It’s one of the few toys we kept after the pooch’s passing.

When Mr. Bad-to-the-Bone cranked up his scare tactics one afternoon to have the feeder all to himself, I squeezed the plush cardinal. Mr. B took off, and has hardly stirred since.

Bullying serves no useful function in our lives or our environment. Let’s stand up to bullies and help them be their better selves—no matter the species.

[Drop cap by Jessica Hische.]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Words on Wednesday

Today is Wednesday.

In the work world, it’s Hump Day for those toiling Mondays through Fridays—the midweek point at which you’ve clocked 2 days of drudgery with only 2 more to go. If your workweek, like mine, often includes Saturdays and Sundays, then Wednesdays are just another day.

In the blogosphere, today is “Wordless Wednesday.” Every Wednesday, participating bloggers post a photograph and nothing more—no explanation, maybe a caption. For fashion blogs, it’s the dress to die for; for pet blogs, it’s the cute animal set-up; for family blogs, it’s the Kodak moment.

I’ve no idea how this got started. (Yes, I could research it, but does it matter that much?) I suspect someone somewhere was quite keen on alliteration. Plus the wordlessness aspect saves a lot of time and brain power—no need to ponder a great idea for a post, no writing, no frustrated rewriting. Perfect space filler: title, photo, done.

Not one to follow the herd, I’ve avoided Wordless Wednesdays on Lull. I’m certainly fond of alliteration, though, so I could call it Wordy Wednesday just to be different. But I’m reluctant to make an ongoing commitment like that.

So, for one day only, I’m serving up random words for Wednesday (really more of a pointless post) and a random bit of art for your viewing pleasure.

[Art by Paul Gauguin. If Wednesday’s got you down, or you’re in need of a little armchair travel, head over to Google’s “Art Project” and tour some of the world’s greatest museums.]

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Redemptive Tale from the Bluegrass

Stranger In A Strange Land – No. 17

We don’t watch the local news on television. We tried when we first moved to the Horse Capital of the World, but there was one story after another of animal cruelty: the dog pitched from the window of a car speeding along a highway, the organized dogfights, the yard dog strangled by his chain, and the dogs dragged for … fun? … from the back of a truck. I couldn’t bear it. And I seriously wondered what rabbit hole we’d fallen down.

To be fair, animal cruelty happens everywhere there are people. I’m sure the Windy City had its share of these subhumans. They just didn’t make the evening news.

So imagine my delight when I read an upbeat tale about a pit bull in Frankfort, the state capital of the Bluegrass. You might have seen it already—it was on the Animal Rescue Site several days ago. Here’s the story from Kenneth Masters and his photo of China:

Second chances and a mission
Driving home from work I used to pass by a house and see a white pit bull in the backyard. One week I realized that no one was living in the house any longer, but the dog was still in the yard. Not really thinking ahead, I stopped and approached the fence and called out. Here she came, wagging her tail, from what looked like a tool shed. She seemed friendly enough, so I invited her to ride along with me and she hopped up into my truck and away we went. As I thought about what I would tell my wife and cats, I looked over at my new friend just in time to see a wet puppy come sliding out onto my seat! By the time I got home we had two puppies and no plan! Panicked, I settled everyone down in the bathtub and rushed back to the empty house just in case. Sure enough, in the shed there were two more puppies. By the time my wife got home there were 6 pit bulls in the bathtub and cats waiting for an explanation! These days China can be found napping on the couch, cats curled up beside her, and my wife? Well, she now co-ordinates the free spay/neuter program for pits and pit-mixes at our Franklin County Humane Society, Frankfort, Kentucky USA.

Thank goodness for people like Mr. and Mrs. Masters.

[Painting by Robin Andreae.]

This is part of an ongoing series regarding my transition from the Land of Lincoln to the Bluegrass State. For a list of previous articles in the series, select Stranger in a Strange Land from the right of Lull, under “Choose a topic that interests you.”

It’s Opening Day for Summer

If “flower watching” were a sport, I could finally call myself an athlete.

“In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them.”
—Aldo Leopold

Monday, June 20, 2011

Let’s Eat Cake!

Lull is two today. Can you believe it? Joyeux Anniversaire!

About the Cake Pictured: Created by JollyBe Bakery of pear buttercake with caramel-vanilla buttercream and pear-flavored rolled fondant. The painting is inspired by the work of Japanese artist Kishio Koizumi.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fast and Curious: A Father and Daughter Rebuild a Shared History

It’s an unusual Father’s Day this year at Lull HQ. Our grandfathers are long gone; we no longer have fathers or father figures left, and we no longer have any furred “girls” around to honor their male human with a card and (usually) a CD. Father’s Day isn’t meaningless, but it’s not an active holiday for us—we’re under no obligation to do anything. It feels like the perfect occasion to tell you about Sidney…

My father and I had grown apart emotionally as well as geographically over the years. What we knew of each other was based on interactions from my childhood, B.D. (Before the Divorce). I hoped to remedy this by moving to the Bluegrass State.

On one of our visits with my father last spring, prior to our move, my husband and I spent time doing the physical labor my father was no longer capable of doing—raking, organizing the barn, general cleaning. One of my duties was to prepare the ground-level birdbaths and garden drinking elements for use. This meant weeding, pulling muck out of the birdbaths, scraping algae off the decorative stones, making it all shiny and new again for the avian populations of my father’s backyard.

What I didn’t realize when I accepted the task was that it was a pet project and my father wanted it done a particular way—that is to say, HIS way. So I positioned a chair near the action and helped my father into it. From the chair, my father would be close enough to supervise my every move, but not so close that he’d get sprayed by the hose (unless, of course, I took aim at him). As his instructions grew more detailed and his corrections of my work mounted, taking aim at him was beginning to look like a satisfying option.

That’s when Sidney (or maybe Sydney) popped into our lives. I was scooping stones out of the baths and throwing them into the driveway. On one was the little gastropod. I gasped at the thought of a different outcome, of the snail being crushed by the stones. All tension slipped away at this new development. We now had a dual purpose: clean and protect.

You might think that protecting a snail is easy. “Just keep an eye on him,” you advise. “He won’t go far—snails are slow.”

But you’d be wrong, at least where Sidney was concerned.

Sidney was focused and FAST. One moment he was resting on a rock, the next he was stretched across two rocks—tasting algae, testing surfaces, conducting who-knows-what exploratory exercises. He was a fascinating snippet of a creature who appeared to be fascinated by everything around him. He exuded personality.

I could almost hear him “Hrrmph” each time I wrangled him from going too far. I didn’t want Sidney wandering into the driveway, facing certain death by automobile. I intended to return him to the mini-wetlands environment from which he’d come, but not before I had the area cleaned and replenished with fresh water.

It was a hot day and my father started worrying about the snail getting overheated. “Have you checked on Sidney lately? Is he okay?” asked my father.

Periodically, I created tiny pools of water next to my charge so he could drink (he didn’t) and sprinkled water over him to cool him off, which spurred him to scoot away from me (indignantly, I thought). Had he been a dog, he would have shaken his little body at that point and splattered water right back at me.

I struck up a conversation with him. That is, I talked to Sidney and he stretched his head in my direction, as if he were listening. (I know. More likely he was thinking, What the Hell?) I told him he needed to keep hydrated because my father was getting on my case about his welfare. And I could take only so many orders from the old man in that heat.

In truth, Sidney had already taken some of the heat off of me. My father had become more interested in the snail than in supervising me. It was looking like Sidney had clinched his future as a yard pet.

Once I’d made Sidney’s home habitable again, I placed him on the edge of the pool. He couldn’t get away from it fast enough. I repeated my effort, this time situating him closer to the water. He stretched out his neck, surveyed the liquid, and took a long drink. I offered a leaf as a way out of the pool. Instead, he took a bite from it.

“What’s he doing now?” asked my father.

“He’s looking at me again,” I answered. Then Sidney disappeared into the foliage as mysteriously as he had materialized in the first place.

We never saw Sidney again, but he became part of my father’s storytelling repertoire in the final months of his life and a precious shared experience between us.

Note: The photos of Sidney don’t show his true colors. The dark “veins” on his body were purple, and his shell had a chartreuse glow to it. He was quite striking.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

You Must Do The Thing Which You Think You Cannot Do

It’s raining here today, which reminds me of mud, and mud brings to mind this little sweetie:

Cinders suffers from a fear of mud—a rare disorder for an animal that typically 1) Takes great pleasure in wet dirt, and 2) Values exploration above nearly all else. While her siblings frolicked in muck, Cinders watched from the sidelines, trembling.

Feeling her pain, Cinders’ guardians fitted her with special tiny Wellingtons—solution enough for her to resume typical piglet behavior, proving the truth in Eleanor Roosevelt’s sage advice: “You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” (Though you may need some special workaround, e.g., Wellies, to get the job done.)

[Pic from Ross Parry Agency.]

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Third Act of the American Sentence

Years ago you could count me among the folks who idolized Hemingway. But I was equally in awe of Faulkner and confused about what writing how-to gods Strunk and White would say about my taste in literature.

Adam Haslett addresses my concerns nicely in “The Art of Good Writing,” in which he posits: “If the history of the American sentence were a John Ford movie, its second act would conclude with the young Ernest Hemingway walking into a saloon, finding an etiolated Henry James slumped at the bar in a haze of indecision, and shooting him dead.” I would add, While lawmakers Strunk and White nodded their approval.

Thankfully, the American sentence is now in its third act and Haslett recommends Stanley Fish’s new book—How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One—to people interested in a more comprehensive look at composition (i.e., giving weight to the rhythms and sounds and emotional impact of stringing words together).

Sorry, Strunk and White: Short isn’t always best.

[Photo from The Great Train Robbery.]

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Help Hank Get A Home

Hey, Lull readers! If you’re on Facebook, maybe you can help this furry fellow.

Hank (a temporary name) was found by a woman in Palm Springs, California, who took him to her vet, where the following was revealed:

Hank had traveled a significant distance to get to Palm Springs—100 miles. He was chipped, but his guardian recently died. He loves people and gets along great with dogs. One of his legs was once broken and has now healed, so he wouldn’t make a sound running partner. But he walks fine and isn’t bothered by it.

What’s more, he’s got a winning smile—even after all he’s been through.

I know a million pooches are looking for homes as I write, but this is the one that’s front and center right now. Please help spread the word about him.

For more information, e-mail lilloflull at gmail dot com.

So Long, Snoopy, Snoopy, So Long

y father took great care in choosing cards for people. Whether for a specific occasion or for no reason at all, the card had to speak to him as well as to the recipient. (Frankly, this is how all of us should choose our cards.)

I’ve saved most of the cards he sent to me over the years, knowing how much of him was in each one. (Confession: When we moved, I parted ways with the Snoopy cards. Eons ago I played the part of Snoopy in a small production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Loved the role at the time, but didn’t expect it to follow me into the Golden Years. Dad kept the flame lit.)

Mindful of my father’s perspective, I tried to reciprocate with my card choices for him. Sometimes this felt like an exercise in futility. The major greeting-card companies didn’t seem to have a handle on my personality. But one year, the gods of the cards came to my rescue for Father’s Day.

A publication I oversaw needed cover art that easily connected to one of the stories inside. It was a June issue, so there was also a need to give a nod to Father’s Day somewhere in the issue. Holidays usually inspired us to find cover art that did double duty—that worked as well for the special occasion as for a particular story.

We were coming up empty though—running out of ideas and time. I was desperate enough to start thumbing through my own boxes of photos and memorabilia. That’s how I found it.

The photograph from my childhood prominently featured my father (in what some might think a humiliating position) in a spontaneous musical moment with his youngest daughter. Silliness reigned.

The photo tied in with both the holiday and with a story about hearing a different beat in life and following that rhythm. (My father bristled at being labeled a conformist. He relished being a little outside the norm.) On the inside cover, I published this note for him:
ABOUT THE COVER: By example, this man encouraged me to see joy and meaning in everyday things. And to imagine what I wanted as something I already had. He convinced me that there’s always something new to learn and to always have a Plan B. He made sacrifices so that my life would be what his hadn’t been. And for all these reasons, I feel grateful and privileged. This man, Robert S. Jackson, is my father. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
Voilà! Instant Father’s Day card!

I don’t remember the gift I sent that year. It was secondary to the perfect card, which I knew my father would like. However, I couldn’t have imagined just how much pleasure he would derive from it. He wrote to me that now he’d made it to the cover of a magazine, maybe he’d try to get onto a calendar next. I’d forgotten when I made the cover art choice that my father bought this same pocket-size, inspirational publication in bulk and sent it to all his clients each month. He didn’t hesitate (as I would have) sharing the incriminating shot of silliness. He got a LOT of mileage from it over the years.

Once again, it’s time to pay tribute to dads. This is the first Father’s Day I won’t have to obsess about finding the perfect card and gift. Mission already accomplished.

[Drop cap by Jessica Hische.]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Looking for Balance, Stumbling Upon Humanity

Essayist Brian Doyle brings to light a fellow in his hometown who took up residence next to the local football field. Nicknamed “Hawk” when he was a star on the high school’s football team, the fellow had also played college football and progressed into the professional football league. He’s been married and has children, started businesses yet failed to keep them going, and somewhere along the way he lost his equilibrium, became homeless. He returned to the one place where his life had been stable: the football field.

Here’s what Hawk told Doyle, as excerpted by Utne Reader from The Sun magazine:

“A reporter came by the other day, and she wanted to write about the failure of the American dream, and the collapse of the social contract, and I know she was just trying to do her job, but I kept telling her things that didn’t fit her story, like that people come by and leave me sandwiches, and the kids who play lacrosse at night set up a screen so my tent wouldn’t get peppered by stray shots, and the cops drift by at night to make sure no one’s giving me grief. Everyone understands someone getting nailed and trying to get back up again. I just lost my balance. People are good to me. I keep the field clean. Lost cell phones I hang in a plastic bag by the gate. I walk the perimeter a lot. I saw coyote pups the other day. I don’t have anything smart to say. Things just are what they are. Someone leaves coffee for me every morning by the gate. The other day a lady came by with twin infants and she let me hold one while we talked about football. That baby weighed about half of nothing. You couldn’t believe a human being could be so tiny, and there were two of him. That reporter kept asking me what I had learned, what would I say to her readers if there was one thing to say, and I told her what could possibly be better than standing on a football field holding a brand-new human being the size of a coffee cup, you know what I mean? Everything else is sort of a footnote.”

[You can read the entire article on Eureka Street.]

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Being There: From Bug to Friend in 30 Seconds

As I headed inside from the backyard yesterday, I spotted him (maybe her). I don’t know how or why he caught my eye because he blended so perfectly with the pavement. He seemed purposeful, using both his wings and his legs to propel himself forward along the ground.

I bent down for a closer look. He soon stopped—his front half in the shade of the garage, his back remaining in the glare of the sun. Though he no longer moved forward, his legs and wings continued to stir.

I know nothing about bee behavior, so I had no idea what his movements meant. Did he just need to be in the shade? I scooched him into it, but it neither pacified him nor energized him.

Finally, I figured that whatever his goal was, it was better accomplished in the grass rather than the garage. He would certainly get run over if he stayed where he was. It became easy to interpret his situation as desperate.

I plucked a clover from the yard and offered it to him. He clutched it immediately and I gently pulled him onto a leaf and transported him to a shady spot in the grass. His back legs rested while he focused on the flower. Just as I started imagining that the nectar would revive him, he grew still.

I hadn’t known him long, but that didn’t stop me from tearing up. At least he didn’t die on the pavement, I thought. At least he got a nice final meal. Then he jerked alive again—holding tight to the clover as each of his legs and wings acted of their own accord.

I fetched another clover for him and went inside. I had an appointment across town and needed to change my clothes. I would check on him again before I left.

When I returned to his leaf, only the first clover was visible, already in a stage of decay. I hoped the bee had flown away, but then saw him to the side of the leaf—upright and leaning against two blades of grass as he worked on the second clover. I gently took hold of the stem to pull him back up on the leaf, but a surge of what can only be described as electric current passed through the stem to my fingers.

Was it a message? Was he saying, “Leave me the Hell alone and go to your appointment”? He looked content enough, so that’s just what I did (what I had to do).

My friend was gone when I returned, along with that second clover. I like to think that wherever he is, he’s no longer struggling; his legs and wings are in sync once again.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Yesterday’s Joy

“If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.”
—Chinese Proverb

That Chinese Proverb finally makes sense to me. Yesterday I saw my first-ever Eastern Bluebird!

“Was it the Bluebird of Happiness?” you ask.

I don’t know. That didn’t even cross my mind yesterday. I was just mesmerized by the tiny explosion of color flitting in some branches.

Yet today, with the image of the creature still fresh in my mind, I feel nothing can go wrong. Maybe it WAS the Bluebird of Happiness…

[The bird was too quick for me to snap a photo of him. The pic here is from Jerry Jourdan.]

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Unemployment’s Long Reach

Here’s another Tweet about unemployment I thought you might enjoy:

“due to poor jobs number, the 2012 westminster dog show will divide the working group into two classes: employed/unemployed.”
Robert Crane

[Pics from Westminster Kennel Club.]

Friday, June 10, 2011

Desserted No More

You’ve no doubt heard the (astonishing?) news that the U.S. economy is not recovering as expected.

Even this month, just as hiring seemed to be picking up in the publishing industry, another 100 publishing professionals in a single company lost their jobs to an acquisition.

I feel for them.

This bit of “Twitter Nonfiction” tidily sums up what so many folks have experienced over the past few years:

“Monday, returning manager, white layer cake. Friday, retiring supervisor, Italian cream cake. Weekend, 23 pink slips, no cake.”
—From Creative Nonfiction magazine, by Ralphley

How sweet it isn’t.

[Majolica painted cake by JollyBe Bakery.]

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dogs Enslaved By Clueless People

I just spent the better part of my morning on the floor of a hallway talking nonstop to a terrified dog while a maintenance crew worked in her kitchen. I succeeded in calming her enough that she didn’t tremble, but not enough that she’d let me near her, though she’d met me before.

How miserable life must be for a pooch who can hardly be with her own shadow. She’s as emotionally trapped as Jasmine, a dog whose “guardians” trapped her physically.

I read of Jasmine’s plight on Daley’s Dog Years, a blog written by a journalist about her life with a senior pooch. (She provides all sorts of wonderful information for dog people—especially, of course, for those with elderly canines. She also discusses Degenerative Myelopathy. If you hear those two deadly words from your vet, be sure to read Daley’s Dog Years BEFORE you allow your vet to talk you into taking extreme measures.)

Jasmine was house-trained and was once an inside dog who enjoyed playing at the dog park. Now, at 14, she’s arthritic and deaf and tied to her doghouse outside, where she is fed and given water by neighbors while her family lives 40 miles away. Jasmine is alone most of the time, except for a feral cat who visits.

Did you get all that? Yup, Jasmine gets no exercise, no walks, no conversation, no interaction, nada nada nada.

Then a group called Old Dog Haven in Washington got wind of her. They work only with senior dogs, placing them in what they call a “Final Refuge”: a loving home where elderly pooches can spend the remaining portion of their lives, whether it’s a few months or a few years. The nonprofit even covers the medical expenses of the dogs they place.

Old Dog Haven posted an urgent message on Facebook regarding Jasmine and someone responded—someone who already had one old dog, 16-year-old Jazzy (on the left in the pic). After meeting Jasmine on her property, he took her home to see if the old girls could accept each other.

The result? I think the photos say it all (Jasmine’s on the right, though now she’s more frequently called Sweet Pea).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Don’t Look Now, But…

Ohmygoodness. I happened upon this pic today and had to share it with you. Read the story at Life with Dogs.

[Photo by Mircea Costina.]

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Weed of the Manicured Lawns

Stranger in a Strange Land – No. 16

uite by accident, we live in a quaint, upscale neighborhood here in Horseyland: curvy streets, old shade trees, tiny stone homes built in the 1930s, and two churches at the top of the hill.

We strolled through this temple of civility the other night and came upon four young children sitting in the street with what looked to be fireworks paraphernalia. I wasn’t sure because the sun was long gone and there were no streetlights on this particular block. All I could make out were what kids in my day called “snakes”—small black pellets which, when lit, magically grew into snakelike creatures, jolting to life and oozing and slithering along until the heat died, leaving a trail of black ash on the pavement. If that, indeed, was what these children had been lighting, they’d been through dozens of them already. Mounds of snake debris stretched across the circle the children had formed in the street.

Across from the pyrotechnists were a few adults talking with one another on the sidewalk, and beyond them in an open yard was a gleeful Golden Retriever—off-lead and playing nicely by him/herself in some imaginary world.

Just as we passed all this evening bliss, we smelled “it.” We looked at each other, grinned.

Weed. Unmistakably weed.

It’s not that we’re uppity about smoking the stuff. It’s just that even in our old Windy City gangbanger ’hood, people weren’t usually so brazen. Sure, the fragrance might waft out of someone’s living room window or from a hidden spot on the beach, but rarely from an upper-middle-class, nearly middle-aged clutch on the sidewalk.

Hmm. Our assumptions have been challenged. Shame on us for having any in the first place.

[Drop cap by Jessica Hische.]

This is part of an ongoing series regarding my transition from the Land of Lincoln to the Bluegrass State. For a list of previous articles in the series, just select Stranger in a Strange Land from the right of Lull, under “Choose a topic that interests you.”

Monday, June 6, 2011

WordGazing: Let’s Hope the Gov Sings

aw this on a major news outlet’s Web site about important legislation that the governor should (in my estimation*) uphold:

“The governor said it is his policy not to say if he will sing or veto anything during the session … .”

Funny, isn’t it, how a simple switch of two letters can alter the meaning of a sentence? Heck, this transposition alters legislative procedures.

* Turns out the governor exercised his veto power on the referendum. Too bad he couldn’t sing.

[Art from Jessica Hische.]

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

Yesterday I walked the birthplace of the Horse Capital of the World, McConnell Springs.

It’s a city park now, rescued land bounded by a railroad on one side and a (stinky, noisy) industrial “park” on the other. A small nature center stands at the head of the park paths, then beyond that, wilderness. Nothing but woodlands and a newly created wetlands area.

Remnants of farms and mills that stood on the grounds in previous centuries remain. Efforts to eradicate invasive plants are apparent. But all else is natural—a cathedral of treetops above wildflowers, a stream that intermittently flows above and beneath ground fed by “boiling springs” and a “blue hole,” scores of butterflies and dragonflies, and the avian chorus I could clearly hear but never quite see.

I foolishly forgot my camera and had to take these pics with my iPhone. The tiny butterflies and dragonflies were too quick for me to photograph, but the bird and I started a conversation through the glass of the nature center (“You talkin’ to me?”) and the turtle swam to me as soon as I knelt beside the pond. Whatever grasses I brushed against when trying to photograph the yellow wildflower I’ve since learned I’m allergic to. Yeah, I love nature but I need to be in a bubble when I’m in it.

“In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.”
—Charles A. Lindbergh

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Waiting Game

An older friend of mine (older in that she’s closer to being 100 than I am) recently received celebratory news: Her granddaughter was coming to town.

She could hardly wait for the arrival of the young woman she hadn’t seen for years. There’d been a family rift between other generations and communications had been uneasy. However, now the younger generation was crossing the divide. She would be staying with her aunt’s family in town, which left my friend on the outside.

I’m sure this was a benign decision made for the same well-intentioned reasons we’ve all used at one time or another: Shouldn’t stay with Grandma—too much chaos for her; don’t include Grandma in all we do—too much activity for her; don’t invite her shopping—it’s too much walking for her; she won’t want to go to the movie with us—her hearing, you know; yada yada yada.

For my friend, this decision (made with her best interests at heart) meant that her eagerness quickly turned into anxiousness. It raised a million questions in her mind, among them: Is she here yet? Have you heard from her? How was her trip? How does she look? Are we having dinner together tonight? When will she come to my house? Do you want me to come over there? What can I bring? What are the plans for tomorrow? Until my friend received a phone call, these questions would rule her thoughts.

You know those moments in movies when two characters brush against each other and something incredible and momentous happens? One sees into the future of the other, or the accountant becomes a superhero, or the entire past of one is revealed to the other, or the frog becomes a teenage idol. I had one of those moments with my friend. In a single flash, I FELT all of her anxiety, hurt, joy, pain, relief, frustration, and excitement. It made me want to call her family and say, “Please don’t forget to call her regularly. She awaits your news every moment. It’s all she thinks about. She’s afraid to stray too far from the phone for fear of missing your call. She won’t make plans with her friends because you’re her first priority and she plans to be available to you for anything you choose to do. She’s put her life on hold for you. Please keep her informed with a quick call.”

In my own family, whenever one of the grandchildren was returning home for a visit, my mother would get irritated by the repeated phone calls she received from my grandmothers: “Is he there yet?” Have you heard from her?” I understood their calls at the time, but I never FELT their anxiousness and desperation until now.

As much as I felt my friend’s pain, I more deeply feel the pain of my grandmothers—and regret all the occasions on which I may have been the cause of it.

As for my friend, I hope she comes out on the other side of this reunion with no memory of the downside it initially caused. I hope she remembers only the comfort and delight of having her granddaughter once more within hugging distance.

[Art by Edouard Vuillard.]

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Always Remember to Read the Fine Print

ur new neighbor displays a PETA sticker on her car. When my husband first saw it, he couldn’t wait to tell me. He thought I’d have a new pal to discuss animals and rescue with.

I took a gander at the bumper propaganda and noticed there was small type next to the PETA acronym. Stepping closer, I could make it out: “People Eating Tasty Animals.”

I guess a new friend wasn’t in the cards for me.

[Drop cap courtesy of Jessica Hische.]

Today Only: Play A Game, Feed Joplin’s Homeless

This kind of breaking news often comes to me too late. However, if you’re reading this on Thursday, 2 June 2011, then you still have time to make a difference for the animals of Joplin, Missouri, who lost their homes to a tornado.

The FreeKibble “game” is one multiple-choice question, but you can choose to play more questions if you wish. And you can revisit the site throughout the day. Just choose Bow Wow Trivia or Meow Trivia or both.

This site donates food every day to shelters, but today the goods are dedicated to Joplin alone. Plus, if 1 million pieces are reached, the Halo pet food company will match it. (Halo is wholesome food for any pet and not typically the brand served in shelters.)

So let’s help the homeless four-leggeds get some highly nutritional food while they’re waiting for their old families or their adopters. Every click is worth 10 pieces of kibble.

[You can see some of the unclaimed pets (including birds, turtles, ferrets, and rabbits) on the home page of the Joplin Humane Society.]

A BIG THANK-YOU to the Lull reader who passed along this information!

Go with the Flow

Though Monsieur Renard writes truthfully here, his observation still makes me smile. Hope he does the same for you.

“There are moments when everything goes well; don’t be frightened, it won’t last.”
Jules Renard
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