Archive for March, 2010

Conference Update & Surprise

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Thanks to the generosity of a dear friend, today I had the pleasure of attending the 5th Northern Colorado Writers Conference.Writers, both published and pre-published (Mike Beflerís clever tag), joined in welcoming award winning novelist and creator of more than forty television shows, Stephen Cannell. His keynote presentation kept the audience enthralled.

Stephen had several outstanding points in his presentation:

1. ìDyslexia never stopped me and I was never afraid to bet on myself.î Translation: believe in yourself and your work.

2. He suggested you think like an agent. Do research to find out what the agent has done, mention a favorite or two then instead of asking for representation, ask for help to improve your work to get to the caliber of present clients. Translation: Flattery will get you everythingÖwell at least it'll get you in the door. The rest is up to you.

3. Stephen discussed his relationship with actors. He claimed his ìI owe you my best opinion,î and ìwe can work it out,î set the scene for developing successful professional relationships.† Translation: cooperation and compromise work hand in hand for the most effective results.

I also attended three other inspiring workshops:

1. †Colorado author, Page Lambert who addressed the importance of place in writing through the use of atmosphere, symbolism, imagery, and metaphor through readings from classic novels and her own work.

2. Mike Befeler, another Colorado author, concentrated on the tools and techniques used to help an author establish a marketing platform.

3. Agents Rachelle Gardner (WordServe Literary GroupóCO ), Ken Sherman (Ken Sherman and Associates Literary AgencyóCA), Joe Monti (Barry Goldblatt Literary AgencyóNY), and editor Ben Barnhardt (Milkweed Editions) shared their personal and professional insights via a Q&A-Agent/Editor Panel. Their presentation was informative, candid, lighthearted and encouraging.

Then to top off the evening, after a tasty buffet dinner, YA author Todd Mitchell gave a spirited presentation on why weíre called to writing, introduced us to a top-ten list of why we should never stop writing and, in a most charming way, challenged us all to keep the words alive.

My own surprise came when I mentioned to the editor from Milkweed Editions my story: A Poppiní Tale. Seems I had contributed to one of their anthologies -† Stories From Where We Live: The Great North American Prairie and he recognized it. WOW!

When I came home I looked up the copyright date...weíre talking 2001. WOW!

I was also pleased to tell him the story had been used in the NV School Literacy tests for several years. He smiled at that tidbit of info; obviously impressed. After a brief chat, he said heíd be open to any query I think heíd be interest in taking a look-see for Milkweed. WOW!

Yes, fellow wordsmiths, I will follow up.


Friday, March 26th, 2010

As a Master Gardener with Larimer County, I am back at it taking refresher classes and getting excited about spring.† Recently, I blogged about hummingbirds.† Today, I want to share some quick and dirty ways to have a beautiful, healthy lawn and trees.† Know that diseases rarely get a foothold in healthy plants that are not stressed.


With that in mind, do not over or under water your lawn.† There is no formula (one rule for all) because the amount of water depends on the type of grass, the amount of sun, shade or wind and other variables.† Put some jars or cans out in your lawn to catch water so you know what you are spraying on. †Ask the wonderful volunteer experts (my husband is one of those) at CSU to do a water audit for a nominal charge of $75. Do not water during mid-day or when it is windy.† Do not over fertilize (it runs off into sewers contaminating our water supply.)† Aerate twice a year (Easter and Halloween) and punch many, many holes.† The holes should be two inches apart.† If you hire a service, make sure they do way more than one pass. Leave the plugs on the lawn. When you mow, never, ever cut off more than one-third and leave the clippings on the lawn to mulch, decompose and recondition the earth under the grass.† If you bag your clippings for landfill, you are throwing money away.


Never plant trees too close to anything.† Would you make your infant son sleep in a crib his whole life?† No.† Trees grow big.† The roots of trees do not grow deep into the earth like a carrot.† They spread out for long distances in a shallow manner. The roots need water and air; if a tree is surrounded by concrete, it is going to be STRESSED.† Do not water next to the trunk (unless it is a twig) ñ water around and beyond the drip line.† Do not allow a tree to develop two leaders (main trunk).† Prune one off.† Need a new tree?† PLANT A TWIG AND WATCH IT GROW BIG.† Seriously, in a few years the twig will establish and catch the big, expensive tree who is struggling to get established because its root ball was cut to a fraction of what it needs to support itself.† †I wish I had known this five years ago when I bought five huge trees to put in my labyrinth.

Okay, gardeners, tree-huggers and lovers of the outdoors, have fun and let me know if this advice was helpful.

Changing Perspectives

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

A current display in the Loveland Museum and Gallery created by Harriete Estel Berman ( presents social commentaries on our ìconsumer societyî. Have you ever considered rebelling against the notion that homes should be encased in beautifully manicured lawns? Berman obviously has. She cites evidence that maintaining grassy expanses around homes was introduced into our culture by Thomas Jefferson based on his observations of the grounds around homes in England, which has a very different climate than that found in most of the U.S.

Berman believes that the obsession with perfect weed-free grass is a travesty against nature, imposed upon homeowners by the lawn industry. She further asserts that only a rich nation can afford the luxury of growing grass around every building. She supports her theory with magazine advertisements dating back to 1941. The lawn industry has a very lucrative business going. Consider the sales of grass seed, sod, harsh chemicals to aid growth and kill weeds, sprinkler systems, lawn mowers, edgers, etc. And, of course, the amount of water necessary to keep that grass green, when many parts of the country are suffering from drought conditions.

So with my awakened awareness of this imposed cultural desire for perfect lawns, I sit down to watch a bit of television. What should appear but a really cute teenage boy with a lawn mower? He is part of the advertising campaign for Trugreen, a lawn company that will spray your grass with a host of chemicals causing it to grow good and tall so Young Cutie can earn lots of ìgreenî by mowing that grass into perfect shape.

Bermanís exhibit features a ìlawnî make of strips of tin. She gathers tin food containers and other tin objects that would usually be thrown away and constructs her art pieces from them.† Her display of 70 teacups made of tin is entitled ìConsuming Conversationî and features sayings pieced together from words taken from the containers.

Another intriguing piece, titled ìObsession with Womenís Appearancesî features a magnifying mirror encircled with common sayings women berate themselves with as they look into a mirror. It is encircled with images from tins of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, cherries, and Coca Cola girls.

This is just a sampling of Bermanís thought provoking pieces. The exhibit continues through April 11th. Consider visiting the museum to expand your perspectives.


Monday, March 15th, 2010

Ever since my son started kindergarten, weíve lived in that hazy area that was too close to qualify for the school bus, but really too far for a kid to walk. Since my husband leaves for work very early, Iíve been the one responsible for taxi duty twice a day, five times a week, for the past fourteen years.†

Oh, there was the odd carpool here and there, and for two years my son could drive his younger sister on some days. But with their different schedules I was still driving at least several times a week. This year, with him away at college, Iíve been back on full-time duty.

Until now.

My daughter got her driverís license last week. Now she can drive herself the three miles to school every day. And Iím not sure how I feel about that. Part of me is rubbing my hands in glee, plotting what to do with those precious extra minutes I suddenly have in my day. But another part is feeling a bit obsolete.

Something tells me Iíd better get used to that feeling.


Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Last week my husband and I participated in an interactive dolphin program in Cozumel, Mexico.† I learned a lot about dolphins, myself, and my fellow humans.† The day was overcast and the wind was blowing so hard that the organizers offered to give us our money back, but none of the ten people in our group backed out.† Two people in our group could not swim and spent the time clinging to the fence that was our cage in the ocean.† There were other dolphin encounters that were far less strenuous and we swimmers were amazed that anyone in their right mind would shell out big bucks to cling to the cage.† Go figure.

Our dolphin, Regina, kissed me, let me shake her fins and lay in my arms.† Next, I swam through the choppy waves with a boogie board and waited until Regina came up behind me and pushed me (her nose on my feet) what† seemed near the speed of light through the water, creating a huge wake.† Lastly, I swam out in the water and Regina came under me with her belly facing upwards and let me take hold of her fins and gave me an unforgettable ride. After that, we humans went into a pen and petted a manatee.† I, who once lived in Africa, was amazed that his fins and toe tails looked remarkably like an elephantís foot as did his mouth and his hide.† The trainer said the closet relative to the vegetarian Manatee is the elephant. †This amazing mammal is in grave danger of extinction due to motor boat collisions.

I swam next to Marie, a seventy-eight year old, from New York. She had come to Cozumel with 11 other women; all who elected to stay behind on the cruise ship.† Marie was spirited and fearless. †When I jokingly commented that 78 must be the new 65, she responded, ìWhatever.î †It was striking that this woman was in the water, living it up, while the much younger Pakistani women sat on the dock and watched their men folk have all the fun.

The dolphin encounter was an emotional experience for most of us and a delight.† As I age, I am following Mariaís example.† I zip-line, swim with Dolphins - experience whatever comes my way. †We canít change the number of our age, but we can avoid being paralyzed by it.† So much of aging and life is colored by oneís attitude.

Eating Soup with A Fork

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

My son is a tweener; and his favorite after school snack is Ramen noodles. He steeps them carefully in a bowl of boiling water under a saucer, then eats them with a fork, with† much slurping and flipping around of bits of noodles and sauce.

(Yes-- I have had to chisel them off the armchair and the floor by the tv.)

Yesterday, I said,† "Logan, please find a soup spoon." He replied, "Mom, what's the big deal? People in China eat them with sticks!"

He's right, of course. In approaching any problem or task, it is really a matter of personal choice which tool or utensil one uses. But as† a mother, I thought I knew best. Being a parent of older kids has taught me that everything† I say is up for question, debate, resistance, even ridicule. It's their individuation process.

I might not like how he eats his noodles but experience has taught me that he has a reason that makes sense to him. So,† I asked him why he eats them with a fork.

Guess what he said?

"Mom, its because the water is boiling hot and if I wind the noodles around a fork, I can eat them quickly while the juice is cooling down."

So, there. All I have to do now is consider how† to convince him to slow down when he eats. Til then, I have the consolation of knowing that at least he can cook something that will keep him from starvation.

As a graduate student, I lived on Ramen noodles.† But I ate mine with a spoon, slowly.

Dating the Dog

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Iíd rather date my dog.

Iíve never been married, and I think I know why. I loved animals first. As a child, my teddy bears where top of the list, maybe because I was shy and found them to be safe companions. I played with them, held tea parties and gave them homework.

In high school, I started dating, but in college and after was when I had the boyfriends. Some were not so nice, or they were kind of boring, but they all were handsome. I went out with men for their looks ñ now, I know thereís more than the surface, but then I have a dog.

Her nameís Zoey, and if you read this, you need to pronounce it Zoo-eey with lots of affection. She weighs 8.8 pounds, is 1.2 years old and is 0.5 feet tall.

My miniature daschund greets me when I come home from work with wiggles starting with her tail that move her whole body into alarcity. She leaps off the chair and says, hi, hi, hi, as she runs circles around the coffee table. I really doubt a man would do that for me.

Zoey kisses me when sheís naughty or in the morning or when she runs by me. She wants to play all of the time, I mean all of the time, meaning that her attitude is all about fun.

She is my sleeping buddy, but if I toss and turn too much or hog the sheets, she doesnít say anything about it. She snuggles smack against me leaning into my stomach ñ Iím a side sleeper ñ giving me a nightlong cuddle. What more could a girl want.

She doesnít care how I look or what I wear, unless itís socks, and then she wants to take them off, run around with them a bit and drop them on the floor. But if I put them back on, she has to take them off and run around, so that it becomes a battle of the sole.

Last of all, I can say I love you over and over and not wear out the words. She doesnít have to say anything but I know in her dog language, she says I love you back. Iíve got it all, a best friend and a cuddle buddy in a nearly 9-pound package.