Thursday, August 30, 2007

Exercise: It's for the Dogs

(This post is related to writing. Really. Sort of. Just bear with me.)

Yesterday, I started a 30 minute walking routine with our dogs. Okay, it's not routine yet, but I plan on making it one. I should have done it sooner, as we all need to move our copious butts more often. Bailey is a black lab/border collie cross with lots of energy. She requires several rounds of chase the ball during the day to keep her from getting stir crazy. Any time, any weather. Why she is not the svelte canine she ought to be is a mystery. Yes, we've had her thyroid and such checked. No, she doesn't eat more than our other dog, Holly (a rottweiler/golden retriever--that's her picture there. I'll get one of Bailey on here as an "after" shot. She's a bit embarrassed by her current state of--ahem--thickness.). Granted, we don't exercise her as much as she needs, but she shouldn't be as "big boned" as she is.

It's scary how Bailey and I have the same problems--thyroid's fine, eating no more than most, big bones. And since neither of us is keen on dieting, the solution is to move. Hence, our new "walkies" program.

We walk the kids down to the bus stop then go for a 15 minute jaunt along the highway. It's a highway in name only. With one lane in each direction, sporadic traffic, and a nice wide shoulder, it's probably one of the safest roads around. The highway follows a huge lake and is bordered by green, woodsy foothills. Other than the potential to meet a bear, it's quite lovely. At the 15 minute mark, we turn around and head home, feeling the twinge of under-used muscles reawakening.

So how is this related to writing? Though fine companions, dogs aren't much help in that department. But the walking is important to my routine. My life as a writer lends itself to two unhealthy pitfalls: being sedentary and lacking contact with the outside world. You see, up until we moved, I'd go to the gym 3 or 4 mornings a week. This got me healthier (though I never lost more than a few pounds I did have a better cholesterol count and lower blood pressure, and I felt great) and it was a chance to socialize with other members. After working out, I'd go home and get my day of writing started. Physical exercise and human companionship prepared me for the mental tasks ahead.

But since moving, I haven't seen the inside of a gym. Okay, that's not quite true. I looked in the window of the local recreation center and saw their weight room. I have a DVD and some odd looking ring someone gave me for a pilates workout, but I have yet to pop the thing into the player. Maybe I will when the weather is too nasty to walk. Though I doubt the dogs will find it as pleasurable as walking, even in the rain.

I still need to get more human contact to keep me sane. That will probably come with volunteering at school. Eventually. I'm not quite ready for jumping into that fray, as I'm still reveling in the absence of kid-sounds in my day. Let's not push it, 'kay?

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Ahhhhh......Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!

Today is the first day of school. I believe I was more excited about it than my girls were, and they were pretty pumped.

Don't get me wrong. I love my kids more than anything else. But after the insanity of the past five months with family losses, house buying and selling, moving, and getting settled into a new town, it's great to be back in a routine. Going to bed at a decent hour, getting up in time to eat rather than wolf down breakfast, making lunches.

After enjoying a quiet morning of kidlessness, I'll get myself back on track with revising, writing, contest judging, and critting. No really. I will.

Right after I finish laughing with giddy abandon.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cat Tale

One of our cats, Frosty (guess what color he is) decided to go on a bit of an adventure. I know most of you are thinking, well, that's not too unusual. Cats are like that. Yes, but let me give you a little background.

Frosty is, perhaps, the most skittish, most wussy cat I know. In our old place, he was an indoor only kitty, venturing outside no more than three feet from the door that had better be open or he'd panic. No, really. If he happened to be outside (accompanied by an adult human) and someone accidentally shut the door, he'd freak.

I preferred the cats staying in at our old place because we were close to a somewhat busy road. Not to mention the occasional eagle cruising overhead. But when we moved, our new house offered less traffic danger, so my husband let the cats out.

I was nervous about this, even without the risk of them being run over, because we still had eagles and the added threat of bears. Yes, bears. In the neighborhood. But with plenty of hiding places and Frosty's tendency to dash from cover to cover, I figured he was safe despite his "unnatural" white "Here I am! Eat me!" fur. It was the bolder cat, Mouse, I was concerned with. Knowing her, she'd walk up to a bear and become kitty vittles.

So anyway, Frosty and Mouse were outside, with the front doors ajar in case they needed to come in. Mouse wandered in on Saturday evening, but not Frosty. I stayed up until midnight, periodically calling to him. Nothing. Next day, nothing. Day after that, gulp, nothing.


The kids were upset, but my husband and I told them that cats do this sort of thing, that perhaps he was at someone else's house (unlikely, given his skittishness about strangers), anything we could come up with to ease their fears. He even told them of a cat he had in Nome when he was a kid that disappeared for three weeks in the dead of winter. The cat returned with frostbitten ears and a bit on the thin side, but she was fine. Great inspirational story, hon. But inside, I figured Frosty was a gonner. I was sad, as he's a decent enough cat. The kids were sad. Mouse was sad, but I think mostly because we didn't let her out anymore. All in all, a sad household.

Until last night. Yep, Frosty wandered up to the porch yesterday evening, none the worse for wear. His ears are a bit red, perhaps from mites, but otherwise he looks fine. We believe he was under the house, but why didn't he come out? Why didn't he make any noise? What did he eat? And my husbands biggest question: if he was under there, what did he tear up?

Frosty may be answering those questions, as he has been quite yammery since coming home. My girls want to celebrate by giving him tuna water today at lunch. He'll like that.

And he and his compadre, Mouse, better like the view from inside. No more outdoor cats.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Loss for Words

Some how, some way, I've managed to lose my favorite compact dictionary. I know it's in the house. I didn't leave it behind during the move, that's for sure, but where oh where are you little blue Webster's????

Yes, I have other dictionaries. Mostly of the big, hardcover, smash-your-toe-if-you-drop-it variety, but my battered Webster's has been with me for over 20 years. I got it before I started college, and it shows. The front cover is torn and scarred. The back cover and last few pages are loose. I keep it held together with a rubber band lest I lose the Z's.

My love for words has been with me for as long as I can remember. I'd flip through dictionaries, picking random words, and learn their meanings, their origins. I was distraught to find no classes offered in Latin, Greek, or Old English at my high school. French helped, but not enough.

In college, I had to put aside my word-lust and focus on my major. Granted, I got a little more instruction in Latin and Greek as I memorized scientific names for every freakin' duck that flew near North Dakota (and that's a lot of ducks, let me tell you), but my leisure time for delving into dictionaries was limited.

After graduating and moving into the work force then into parenthood, I still loved to read, but never got back into looking up words for their own sake. Until I started to write. I rediscovered the joys of learning a new word, even if it didn't make it into the manuscript. The thrill of clicking on my thesaurus tool or rifling through Roget's and finding a different word than the one that initially came to mind and expressed the nuances of what I meant to say.

And my little blue Webster's dictionary was always close at hand, an old friend I could rely on to show me the proper spelling of just about any word I could come up with. Oh, sure, I have spellcheck on my PC, but nothing beats the whisper of pages as I search the columns for that special word. Or the delight as my eye falls upon a new word that MUST be read before continuing. The rapid response of a click of the mouse is too fast to allow my brain to simultaneously search for words while mulling over the passages I just wrote.

I have my thesaurus here with me now, but it's not the same. Oh, I know some will say a thesaurus is more important than a dictionary to a writer. But I say that's just not so. My thesaurus is helpful, but it doesn't tell me everything I want to know about words. If we could live with one or the other, why would they bother printing both? I want--need!--my dictionary.

I'll find you, little blue Webster's! I swear I will!

8/15 UPDATE: Little blue Webster's has been found! Sadly, the Z's managed to slip the rubber band and are torn beyond use. But despite that unfortunate loss, I will now be able to concentrate on my writing, knowing my faithful Webster's is there to guide me!