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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Memories from a Photograph


I love the photo at the top of this post. It says so much, and it shows that a picture truly can be worth a thousand words.

I have seen this building before, but as I was driving to Durango, CO, to meet a group for a hiking trip, I knew I had to stop and take a picture. I made a U-turn as soon as I could and drove back into the parking lot.

I love the photo's simplicity -- an old truck and an old building with classic advertising on the side. But most of all, I love the memories it conjures in my mind ... memories of a time when life was simpler and moved at a slower pace ... memories of my childhood.

The truck creates images of a rural area with dusty, rutted, unpaved roads. The sign, of course, is instantly recognizable from its colors and script. Coca-Cola Classic is my absolute favorite soft drink, a guilty pleasure I enjoyed every morning for many years until my doctor told me that I need to watch my sugar intake. So now, aside from the occasional can of 'real' Coke, I limit myself to sugar-free soft drinks.

I remember summers spent at my grandparents' place in rural southern Illinois. Days were hot and humid, and we kids were on the go from the moment we awoke in the morning. There was no air-conditioning in the house, and we rarely watched television. Instead, we ran around outside, we played with our cousins who lived down the hill, we rode their horses and their homemade go-cart. We explored the woods and the pond filled with small fish and snapping turtles.

The truck reminds me of my grandfather's old 1947 Chevy. My grandmother didn't drive, so my grandfather did all the driving. In those days, there were no seat belts or air bags or other safety devices that make today's vehicles much safer. The car didn't have a radio or air conditioning, and of course it was black (the only color available at the time) and it had a manual transmission. The car also had a huge back seat, and it smelled of age and must and dust. I was saddened when, after my grandmother died and my grandfather entered a nursing home, the car was sold. And their simple, cozy old house was sold and torn down, replaced with a more modern home.

I haven't been back to that part of Illinois in many decades. Most of my relatives have either died or no longer stay in touch. I don't ride horses or go-karts any longer, my house is air-conditioned and my car has all the luxuries I want or need. But it's nice having these old memories revived by a chance encounter with an old truck and some classic advertising.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Family Resemblances

Every so often, I walk our two dogs separately, rather than at the same time as I usually do.

As I watched my 14-1/2 year old Lab/beagle, Mila, struggle along on her arthritic hips, I was struck by the similarities she and I share. She has arthritis in her spine and hips; I have arthritis in my hands and bursitis in my hips. Her coat is short, blonde and thick; my hair is short and thick, and it used to be blonde. It's now mostly gray. Mila has gorgeous golden eyes; I have always loved the fact that I have beautiful blue eyes.

Our similarities, however, go well beyond the physical. Both of us prefer solitude and quiet. Neither of us cares for a lot of physical attention. Neither of us is very playful, and both are quiet and serious. Both of us have long nails, mine by choice, hers because she hates having her nails trimmed. Both have hearing problems. I lost most of the hearing in one ear when I was 10 years old; Mila has lost most of her hearing as she got older. We both love being outdoors and exploring the world around us. Both of us are short.

Our other dog, Tia, is a golden retriever. She and my daughter are much alike. Both have long hair, although Julia's isn't as blonde as Tia's. Both are playful, sometimes goofy, and very social. They both make friends easily and love being in the thick of things. And both dog and daughter are very vocal.

I have seen pictures from dog/owner look-alike contests, and although I don't think Mila and I really look alike, it is interesting how much we have in common. I didn't adopt Mila because of her personality. Indeed, I found her in Houston, having apparently been dumped when she was pregnant. We adopted Tia because my daughter fell in love with her fun-loving personality.

It's interesting how our two dogs reflect the personalities of the people in our household. It takes all kinds and all personalities to make the world interesting. I am blessed to have a diverse and loving family with which to share my life.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Unfulfilled Dreams

I want to be a writer.

There. I have put it down in black and white. I want to be a writer. I first discovered my talent for writing in middle school, and I did a lot of writing in my careers with a large humane society and later with NASA. But there were so many limitations and restrictions on my writing that it seldom satisfied my creative side. I have had articles published in some specialty magazines and in the local newspaper while I was in grad school. And I won some writing awards from the Dog Writers' Association.

Since I retired, I have written regularly in this blog. I made a book available of my favorite blog posts, but it sold only a handful of copies. Late last year I finally finished a book about my experiences -- good and bad -- as I raised my daughter, adopted from Russia at age 11. I wrote this book at the urging of an attachment therapist, who believed that my story would be helpful and supportive to other adoptive parents. To date, it has sold only FOUR copies! It is available via the button at the upper right of this page, as well as through amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. But promoting a self-published book is not easy, and although several people have commented that they "can't wait to read" the book, few have actually followed through and ordered a copy.

So I write for the sheer pleasure of writing. I simply love to write. I don't want a writing job with daily deadlines, and I cherish the freedom to write about whatever appeals to me. I just wish that people would actually read what I write! Getting paid for my writing isn't important. But I would like to know that people read, and maybe, if I'm lucky, find some value in, my writings.

I write about many things -- nature, volunteer work, wolves, adoption, personal growth, family and many other topics. I find inspiration for my writing from many sources -- personal experiences, newspaper ads, something I see or hear about on the news or in conversations with others.

I don't have the wit of an Erma Bombeck. I don't have the imagination of a J.K. Rowling. I simply write about what I see, experience or feel passionately about. I don't have aspirations of writing the next New York Times best seller. But I do intend to keep writing. I love writing, and I love experimenting with words until I find just the right word, or phrase or sentence, to convey my thoughts. I love reading a well-written article or book and wondering whether I could ever write as well as that author. The late Albuquerque author Tony Hillerman is a favorite author, although he wrote fiction, something for which I definitely don't have the talent.

I most likely never will be considered a writer, but rather, as someone who writes. There is a huge difference in these descriptions. People have told me for years how much they enjoy my writing. But it's no fun to write post after post with no feedback or commentary. If you enjoy reading this blog, please sign up as a follower (there is a link on the right side of the page) and invite your friends to sign up, too. If you have a comment about a particular post, please use the comment function at the bottom of each post to submit your statement or question. If you have an idea for a future post, I would love to hear about it. I see the statistics. I know that people are reading this blog, from countries around the world. But please, I need some feedback.

In any event, I will continue to write and hope that some day, I truly will be considered a writer.