When I'm Not Writing...Or A Day In The Life

When I’m not writing, I like keeping my furry friends company. We go on adventures together. Some good, some not so great. And there are always lessons to be learned.

Recently, a foxtail, the size of a pumpkin seed,
became embedded in the paw of our German Shepherd, Barbie. Barbie put on a brave face, insisting it didn’t bother her; meanwhile, the paw started to swell. A trip to the veterinarian was necessary.

I was grateful it was Barbie and not our Aussie Shepherd, Rio.

Rio loathes the vet. He loathes other dogs, cats, rabbits and all animals at the vet’s office. He loathes people in and around the vet’s office; the beige linoleum floor particularly gets on his nerves. Rio stays in the car. The vet must come to him, and even then, Rio will allow himself to be touched only after the vet showers him with treats. Rio loves bribes. Could be he was a politician in another life. We adopted Rio as an adult from a shelter; his questionable behavior probably stems from leftover scars. He’s taught us great patience.

In the vet’s office, Barbie sat nicely on the floor. She politely permitted the receptionist to pet her; she thought the linoleum felt cool and didn’t complain. And she pleasantly greeted the other dogs and their owners. In short, she willingly cooperated…until she met Dr. D.

Dr. D appeared innocuous enough. Picture a smaller version of Santa without the beard, red get-up or bag of toys slung over his shoulder. Barbie decided Dr. D belonged somewhere else…like in another building, and she proceeded to convince him of that. She barked, growled and did everything in her power to display her true feelings. Consequently, she had to be sedated.

I left and returned hours later to pick up my little friend. I did. Then I waited to pay the bill. Dr. D happened to be sitting behind the receptionist. He was on the telephone. His conversation went like this:

“Louie? Dr. D. here. Go ahead on that remodel. I decided to expand the family room, after all. (Laughs) Yeah, I need lots of room for the grandkids. I know it’s gonna cost more money, but let’s use the Portuguese, hand-painted ceramic tile…”

And so on. I started to sweat. Just how much did one foxtail removal cost?

I ended up paying enough to tile the entire family room, with leftover pieces to use as decorative trivets for an intimate dinner party. Barbie gave me a groggy, “I told you so” look. I vowed never to return to Dr. D again. If he’d just taken the few minutes he’d spent on the phone with his contractor and used them instead on Barbie and me, all of us would have felt satisfaction. And Barbie would have remained his patient. The takeaway: Tact is an underrated trait. Dr. D lacked the sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others. And Barbie is an excellent judge of character.

When Life Throws You Lemons...

When life throws you lemons, write about it! It’s a wonderful way to diffuse unpleasant situations by twisting them around in any way you please. This is one of the many perks of being a writer. I did a little twisting in my novel to let off steam and to have fun. I figured if I was having fun, so would my readers.

One example: Those of you who’ve read my light-hearted mystery may recall a scene where heroine Corrie is stuck in an empty building with one of her bosses. This boss has somewhat amorous intentions, and maybe more (by “more” I mean, homicidal intentions). The boss gets too close for comfort to Corrie when he stands behind her and buries his nose in her hair because “her hair smells good.” She replies, “So does hot chocolate, but you don’t take a nosedive into that, do you?”

The Reality: This too close for comfort scenario sprang from my standing in line in a small grocery store. A man stood so close in line behind me, he practically buried his chin in my hair. I’m a girl who likes my space. A lot. No one should come within a foot or so without an invite. I turned around, leaned back, and gave him a meaningful look. A look that I’ve honed over time for just such situations. A look that comes from living in SoCal for too long around too many who feel the need to get personal for no apparent reason. The fellow behind me smiled and continued his close-up. So what to do?

I put my hands on my hips jutting my elbows outward and staved him off while finishing up my purchase. Then I went home and wrote about it. What kind of writers would we be if we didn’t take something from our everyday experiences to insert into a piece of writing? Our imaginations can go hog wild when confronted with reality. It’s fun, therapeutic, and ensures we maintain our happiness by polishing up our sense of humor. A sense of humor is the antidote to unpleasant situations. I won’t write without it.

From Darkness To Light

These days, I really enjoy the lighter side of life. Comedy movies, comic books, light-hearted material, and positive reads of all kinds. I even like cheery colors in my wardrobe. But it wasn’t all that long ago when I wrote darker and angrier. The need to get stuff off my chest dominated my pen (or more like my keyboard). I wrote a blog under a pen name about managing encounters with difficult people because I was at the point in my life where I’d had enough of the disruptive and unkind. I needed to find ways to manage these situations while keeping my peace of mind. Not easy to do in the legal profession, or as a parent (and child advocate) or even as an everyday citizen.

So I wrote about unpleasantness encountered on the road, at the grocery store, at the bank, on the phone and anywhere else where run-ins with the rude and mean occurred. I also included ways to battle and diffuse unpleasantries in life. Mostly for my own sake and hopefully the sake of my readers.

This type of writing went on for a while until I realized my focus had shifted to the opposite end of the spectrum. On the good, the kind, and the beautiful. What a difference that made in my life! I noticed the unpleasant encounters diminished, and the negative impact on me and my peace of mind had lessened. This shift reminded me of an old Native American story about a father who told his son of two wolves battling inside each of us. One is mean and vicious, the other gentle and kind. The son asked which one wins? The father answered, “The one that you feed.”

I found ways to focus on and feed the good, and crowd out the ugly by:

1. Practicing gratitude. It’s simple (and necessary) to take a few moments daily to contemplate all that makes us feel grateful. From the car on the road that kindly pauses to let us in, to the lovely sky above our heads. To enjoying life’s simplicities like food and shelter and dear friends.

2. Choosing wisely. Keep a turnstile in your head that picks what enters your mind, letting the positive in and booting the negative out. Refrain from criticism unless it’s to assess yourself on ways to improve. Leave others out of the equation unless your focus is on their good behavior. Top notch mental content is vital to the upkeep of our state of mind. It sets the tone for our moods, our thoughts, and how we get through our day. Don’t permit external factors to push you around. Choose to be happy and positive.

3. Did you know that germs aren’t the only thing that’re contagious? So is happiness.

I’ll elaborate on the power of happiness in next week’s episode. Until then, happy living and happy writing!