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Picture THIS! Talking to yourself might just make you a COOL NERD or GEEK!

I was running with my ancient Italian Greyhound Tootsie (God rest her sweet soul) around the Elementary School park near my house one fine warm late Spring afternoon. Our timing was such that we were running this quarter mile loop just as school was getting out. Standing on a hill overlooking the school as we approached were three moms who looked like they were dressed to go out on a fancy date, complete with bling rather than just in a carpool lineup, At each of their sides sat true beauties of the dog world; two Golden Retrievers and a Yellow Labrador, each in his or her (I didn't check for gender) prime and the two retrievers golden locks were blowing in the light breeze, revealing fancy blinded collars and causing them to look as if they were ready for the runway. Between the six of them, there was a fancy party going on.

Here came me in my schlubby sweats and a ratty t-shirt (however at a respectable enough pace to have darkened my gray t-shirt with "neck sweat" and my dog with her "might have been worn out two seasons ago" sweater fitting a bit too loosely. As we rounded the corner you could almost hear the  'out of the car' carpool mom's eyes rolling at the site of our disheveled selves. Then the oddest thing of all happened. All three of the beautiful golden colored dogs looked at Tootsie with what appeared to be a mix of pity and curiosity. A harrumph and we were dismissed, not cool enough...

We kept running, perhaps at an even quicker pace in our retreat. I often get inspiration for my writing when I run and I had no idea that that day was one of them! I also often talk aloud to myself and to Tootsie when we run and have been known to even kneel in the middle of a run and dictate into my voice app on my phone so I don't lose a potentially great inspiration, now I talk into my iWatch which is so nerdy it's cool, right???

As we rounded the next corner I said out loud, "I KNOW THAT THIS MAY SOUND ABSURD... BUT I THINK MY DOG MIGHT BE A NERD..."  

Sometimes a title comes before the story This time both the title and the first stanza for my upcoming collaboration with the awesome illustrator John Woods came to me on a run. 

Once I fleshed out the story and rewrote it about seventy-three times, I watched my two cats Maple and Ember wrestling in my office. They both ended up with little pieces of paper stuck to their noses and I said aloud, "I KNOW THAT THIS MAY SOUND UNIQUE, BUT I THINK MY CAT MIGHT BE A GEEK!" 

So, ladies and gentlemen, I have concluded that running is a good way to get great ideas AND talking to oneself is useful, EVEN if you talk back. 

NOW, if I could just get a publisher to pick these two books up we'd be all set! 



Water from the hose...

From Spring 2010, just a reminder of a favorite spring and a favorite little buddy.  Might be time to start thinking about a new addition to the family again...

"We have had a cold, rainy, snowy, blowy spring here in Colorado which has made everything lush and green and the trees have been flowering powerfully and then suddenly the past two days have reached into the eighties. It feels like Summer! I spent much of the day planting my veggies and herbs. My favorite basil and cilantro will be great in recipes this summer! We got four heirloom tomato plants which are going to respectively produce black, yellow, green with yellow stripes and red with orange stripes. We were going to opt for the white tomatoes, but were just having a hard time imagining them in a salad. I am pretty sure I am going back to get them this week. My curiosity is peaked and there are still some sunny spots out there.

As I work in my gardens and yard, it is often that I am shadowed by either my Italian Greyhound (Toots aka Batman) or my little Tonkinese Manx cat (Pwowie and the fact that she is a manx is why she has just a tuft where most cats have tails). Toots will generally recline within feet of where I work if there is a nice, shady tree to spend time under, but Pwowie is fairly insistent about remaining under foot and exploring and examining the slightest changes in her territory. She has a large rock in my front garden that is her outpost, where she watches the world go by, called Pride Rock, but if I'm working in the yard, she simply must come and oversee.

After working in the vegetable garden it was time to pot some flowers in the front pots to adorn our wonderful front porch, where we like to sit and take in evening and is my outside writing office often during the day. My mind drifted as I listened to Hall & Oates covers on my iphone (by THE BIRD AND THE BEE, which I highly recommend) and watched my cat following me from place to place as though she were really doing something to assist rather than just sniffing everything and looking at me curiously. After potting several pots and making a wonderful mess on the porch, I hosed it off and filled the watering cans getting ready to tackle my next project.

As I came around the corner, back up onto the porch I caught my little buddy Pwowie in the act of taking a cooling summer drink off the freshly filled watering can and I was suddenly reminded of two things; illustrations in Beatrix Potter's wonderful Peter Rabbit books and those long ago days as a boy when "stolen" drinks from the hoses connected to houses up and down the street was simply the premium refreshment, even rivaling many a mom's lemonade or Kool-aid (though for me, NOTHING rivaled grape Kool-aid!)

I remember summer days when we came home so hot from our adventures in the fields, at the fishing holes or riding in our gang on our stingrays when we felt like we were somewhere near Hades. The August sun baked the skin a dark brown and parched the throat so dry. The water that ran in the ditches was cool on our feet and fun to play in with hours of digging out holes where crawdads backed in trying to get away from a bunch of rascals or having water skipper races, where we each picked ours and tracked it up or down the ditch as it skittered across the top of the water either going with the flow or racing upstream against it. But somehow we all knew the chocolate milk looking water wasn't water we needed to quench our unbearable thirst. So we would hustle to one of our houses and turn the water on at the spigot and wait until it ran all the sun-heated water out of the hose and went cool to cold. Then we would drink so deeply that our stomachs would bloat, impatiently pushing each other aside to get a drink and invariably turning it into a cooling water fight, with the lucky one in control of the hose tethered to the house and hose as we scrambled to find other sources to drench him or her and steal away the hose. There simply has never been a more refreshing drink of water in my life that those. The water flowing out of that hose was like nectar.

So, this summer as I toil in the gardens, I will make sure there is plenty of cool water for my little buddy in the watering can and I will be drinking from the hose. Now I am off to my favorite gardening center to pick up some white tomatoes and I just thought of a place where I could put a catnip plant for Pwowie."



PWOWIE, we will miss you!

A family is made of members who fit roles and sometimes establish new roles. In our family there were and are people and animals who acted like people.

In my house was a little cat.
She had no tail (manx).
She had three teeth (knocked most of them out).
She was 12 years old which in people years is 12 x 6 = 72.
She was a fun little buddy who loved to chase little toy mice and play hide n seek around our house.
She was sick when she was a kitten and never truly got over it, but even though a challenge, just a delightful little creature.
Her name began as Baby Ruth, then she took on many nicknames, the two that she was known far and wide by are P-Dubs and Pwowie.
She has her own facebook page made by one of my sons and has followers from Universities across the land. Join in
Pwowie, became a legend. She was everyone's friend and would sit in any available lap. I am writing this because Pwowie was important to me, my family, my friends and the subject of many stories I have told over the years in my school visits.
It will be hard not having this little creature of mine sitting right in the middle of the floor, always in the way and always ready for anything.
Part of loving is losing and I have just lost one of my favorite little friends.
Rather than be too sad, I celebrate her place in my life for 12 years!
Pwowie, you were an original!
You were awesome in many ways and I'm glad we knew each other.

My very favorite memory of you was when Snickers was sick and dying and how you would lie on top of her and purr, desperately trying to heal her with your love. For hours we would pass the laundry room where Snickers was just too sick to get up. Her, wrapped in a blanket on her dog bed, and you perched on her shoulder.
It was amazing to see how much you loved your dog.
For weeks after Snickers was gone you looked for her. We humans can and do learn a lot from you and your kind.
I know you can't read, but perhaps now you are back with our beloved Snickers and she is reading to you. Now there was a dog!

I remember when I was eight years old coming home from church in mom's car and asking mom, "Mom, will heaven have dogs and cats?" Mom knowing how much my animals meant to me said, "Honey, everything you love here God will give you there." So that means I will see you again.

Rest in peace little Pwowie the P-Dub. I will always miss you.



Last night... magic...

I did a talk for a group of kids, teachers and parents at a school I have visited numerous times not far from my house. It was a pleasant evening as I mingled in the library and then was eagerly greeted by a young girl who clutched her copy of Ol' Lady Grizelda, which I had signed for her five years ago, when she "was a little kid, in 3rd grade" and now she was in middle school and "still really liked the book". She insisted I update her copy with another note and signature and then informed me my signature had changed (aka, gotten sloppy) and said, "See you in another five years." after we talked about the fact that she wanted to be a teacher. I envisioned another five years which meant I could see her again when she was student teaching in a classroom. WOW, time does keep ticking... I imagined her copy of Ol' Lady Grizelda going from a bedroom bookshelf to a classroom bookshelf and smiled. Maybe I would work on my penmanship, so my third signing of it would show improvement?

Soon we gathered in the music room where I told some stories, primarily stories upon which my books are based. As I explained the GP series and where the ideas came from I talked about how my main character Gabriel Peters (GP) begins in book one, Go Ask Mom, with some "strikes" against him, mostly physical, which draws attention and wrath from some school bullies and as a result Gabe is bullied and must find some solutions.

As I told the story I became quite aware of a young man sitting in a wheel chair listening intently to me talking about physical "shortcomings" that were causing Gabe some problems and wondered what he was thinking. He was holding a copy of Go Ask Mom so I knew he was very aware of the conflict in the book. He nodded in recognition as I told stories about Gabe's narcoleptic cat, his mean big brother who Gabe chased out of their shared bedroom one night with nothing more than a lot of imagination and a good, scary story and other adventures.

At the end of my talk it was question time and then it was time to go back to the library, to the book fair, to sign some books. My friend on wheels chimed in as did his mother, but more one on one as the others filed out to go back to the library. He, a really good-natured boy and a social ease recounted parts of the book he really liked. Mom and son both told me how reading Go Ask Mom together had brought them a lot of good times, where mom could recount her neighborhood adventures and how similar they were to Gabe's. My young friend told me how he had used the idea Gabe used to do something different to catch a bully of guard, using his words "like Gabe" to baffle. He simply said "sparkly wheels", because his wheelchair has a cool lighting gizmo, kind of like those tricked out cars that light the undercarriage at night and the bully didn't know how to react. He continued to just say that simple phrase whenever the bully would approach and it seemed to properly keep him off guard because soon it appeared as thought he bully wanted to befriend instead of be mean.

Later in the library, as they had me sign a copy of the sequel, The World According to Gabe, mom told me more stories about how they had connected to Gabe and she thanked me numerous times for writing the book. It seemed at that moment as if the reason for writing that book had been to help a young man in a wheelchair learn how to make the world work a little better and I felt a sense of pride nothing else could have brought. When my young friend wheeled up eagerly holding several toys (does every kid in the world think the book fair is a toy fair?) he was delighted to see mom had already had me sign the second book for him.

As he clutched the book close, he wheeled away, but over his shoulder he said, "I can't wait to see what happens next." I thought he was going to burst when I told him The Gabriel Book of World Records was coming out next week. I imagined mom and son cracking open his new prize at bedtime in just an hour or so and the "new" adventures of Gabe once again filling his bedroom.

As I drove home in the dark, with probably the last of summer evening warmth flowing over me, I was filled with a sense that I was really doing what I was put here to do: Writing stories, telling stories, living stories.

You never know when something you share with the rest of the world is going to make a difference. So, what story do you have that could be shared that would change someone in a small or big way?



My first listeners

Someone has to be a first listener, so when I read my manuscripts out loud, these two Yahoos generally have to hear them. You can see one of them thinks my latest is a bedtime story!

Sheeesh, no wonder, ahem, someone in this picture is called man's BEST friend!