Wednesday, January 21, 2015

He's Got Bedroom Eyes

Dogs are down to earth and fairly predictable. They enjoy squeaky toys, chewy bones, playing fetch, and being scratched behind the ears. They love treats and dinner time. They adore their humans. Take my Indy boy for example. He's now blind, deaf, and nearly fifteen years old, yet still gamely stumbles after me as I walk from room to room. Only occasionally does he bump his nose on an obstacle. Now that's true love.

Then you have cats. What I don't understand about cats is their obsession with the strangest things. One of Bogey's favorite types of entertainment occurs whenever I change the sheets. He can hear the rustle of cotton bedclothes even when he's in the basement. Such activity incites a mad rush to the bedroom where he wastes no time leaping right into the middle of the action.

If I try to tuck the fitted sheet, he worms his way under one of the edges. 

Snap the flat sheet and he attacks the puffs of air that balloon beneath it. And don't let your hand get in the way. Bogey has very efficient claws. 

Then there's the ultimate coup...

Frankly, the only way I'm able to safely change sheets is by closing the bedroom door. However, this creates a frenzied meowing on the other side, the tone and tenor of which causes my ears to ring. I'm pretty sure what he's saying in cat-speak includes exceptionally unprintable comments regarding my personality, parentage, and utter lack of moral fiber. It feels like I've come between a first day dieter and a triple chocolate layer cake.    

My cat and bed sheets. I just don't get it. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Key West Trip High Point...Meow!

Our visit to the Hemingway home in Key West was truly a high point for me. And in more ways than one. During the course of the tour we found out Hemingway's home is built on the highest point in Key West. It's a whopping 16 feet above sea level. That's pretty high. Well it is for Key West, anyway.

Right inside the gate I saw a sign asking visitors to alert staff if any kittens are seen wandering close to the gate that opens to the street. The cats must be trained NOT to exit the grounds. (I'm truly impressed by this fact since I've never been able to train Bogey not to bolt out the door).

Here's the Hemingway house and some of it's more interesting rooms.

The house is surrounded by palm trees and tropical plants. They provide shade, help keep the inside cool, and form an inviting oasis.

This is the living room found right off the entry foyer. The furniture is just as lovely now as it was then. I wish I had those gorgeous windows in my house.

Upstairs, the master bedroom features a hand carved headboard. Beautiful and intricate.

The bedroom has doors leading out to a full length deck that overlooks the grounds. Nice view, huh?

This upstairs bathroom featured the first bathroom in Key West with running water. A rooftop tank gathered rainwater that could be funneled into the tub and toilet. At the time, such an arrangement must have seemed the height of luxury.

Next to the house stands Hemingway's studio. Years ago, a walkway connected the upstairs studio to the upper balcony of the home. That meant Hemingway only had a short and scenic stroll to the office each day.

We weren't allowed to get any closer than this to Hemingway's desk and typewriter. I could almost sense the ghost of his muse in the room.

Hemingway's wife in Key West, Pauline, surprised him by building a beautiful state-of-the art swimming pool.

But alas, Hemingway was not happy. He dug a penny from his pocket and handed it to her, grousing that since she'd spent so much of his money to build the pool, she might as well take his last penny, too.

Pauline, having a wicked sense of humor, embedded the penny in concrete right next to the pool as a tongue-in-cheek reminder.

Legend has it that Hemingway was given a six-toed cat (poly-dactyl, or extra toes) as a gift. Sea faring men saw poly-dactyls as good luck. The cat found a true friend in Hemingway. Its descendants roam the grounds to this day. Currently 52 cats, all reported to be descendants of the original cat, are on the property. About half of them are poly-dactyl. They have free run, going in and out of the house as they wish. Of course there's an awful lot of nifty places for them to hang out on the grounds, too.

Over the years, kitties have come and then gone on to the Rainbow Bridge. This lovely little cemetery tells the story.

I got to meet several of the feline residents. This one posed to show off his extra toe. Looks like he's wearing a mitten, doesn't it?

Several of the youngsters were quite rambunctious. They pounced on the leaves I rustled for their entertainment. One paw smacked my hand and nearly drew blood. I didn't care. Who else can say they got scratched by a descendant of Hemingway's cat?

The property also has a gift shop. The cats get to hang out wherever they want there, too.

If you're a writer, history buff, or cat lover and travel to Key West, be sure to stop by Hemingway's home for a visit. And do tell the kitties I sent you!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

We Interrupt Your Tour of Key West for an Important Message

Here it is...another New Year's Eve. It hardly seems possible it's been a full year since we ushered in 2014, but I suppose that's another tiny little sign telling me that I'm another year older, too.

It's about now, when my blood sugar levels are through the roof from holiday goodies someone is always handing me (okay, maybe I pick up the holiday goodies, but someone makes them awfully available), I know I'm ready for a change. The excess of gifts, food, and parties has left me tired and at least 10 pounds heavier. There's something in my soul that says it's time to stop for a moment and take a deep breath. Despite a few challenges in 2014, I know I've been blessed. But what lies ahead?

There have been scary things going on in our world both far away and very close to home. I can barely stand to watch the evening news bombard me with the latest terrible events, and only hope there's a plan somewhere in all this. I realize there's not much I'm able to do to change the world. I can only soldier on and do my best, fortified by family, friends, and an occasional Heath Bar Blizzard. Who knows? Maybe 2015 will be the year the evening news has only good things to report. Hope provides the possibility that prevents us from giving up.

If you've ever bought a lottery ticket or entered a contest, you've taken a chance. You take a chance because you have hope. It's endlessly fun to mull over what awesome things you would do if you win. A new year is sort of like a lottery ticket, but better. It gives us both the opportunity and the excuse to take a chance we might not have taken before.

I personally am a resolution maker, in my mind if not on paper. Who doesn't love the idea of accomplishing something new and wonderful? Or wish for the chance to make amends for past failings? Or conquer a bad habit? Like opening the pages of a new book, anything seems possible on January 1.

So as we contemplate our 2015, Indy, Bogey, and I want to thank you for spending another year with us. We appreciate all of you, and send wishes for a happy, healthy, and successful new year.

I'm hoping to make some new and exciting changes in my 2015. How about you?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Your Tour Guide Returns

Have you ever dreamed of discovering sunken treasure? If so, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum would be right up your alley. Long ago, the waters around the Keys presented difficult navigating for ships. As a result, it wasn't unusual for wrecks to occur, taking lives and other precious cargo to the bottom of the sea. To this day, underwater archaeologists look for mysterious sunken treasures from long ago.

One of the most famous of these hunters was Mel Fisher. His dream of finding treasure began as a child when he read Robert Louis Stevenson's, Treasure Island. He and his crew were successful in discovering many lucrative shipwrecks, but Fisher had his cap set to find the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha which he had read about in Potter's Treasure Diver's Guide. It was a royal guard galleon with 40 tons of gold and silver aboard which sank in a devastating hurricane along with other ships in 1622.

For 16 years he told his crew every morning, "Today's the day", until finally it happened. They found the ship. Thousands of artifacts were discovered worth many, many millions of dollars. It was considered the richest treasure find since the discovery of King Tut's tomb. Mel Fisher was truly an example of what can happen when you never, ever give up.

We saw gold and silver, emeralds and goblets, jewelry and pirate muskets.

This small sampling shows the beauty and detail of the artifacts found by Mel Fischer.

And we we saw something else that widened our eyes. For those of you who recall me writing about our local sculptor friend, Don Wiegand, upon entering the museum the first thing we saw was a bronze sculpture Don did of Mel Fisher.

Talk about finding a touch of home in Florida!

If you get a chance, I strongly recommend you visit the museum. You won't regret it.

Next time I'll show you one of the highlights of our trip...the home of Ernest Hemingway and the fabulous felines that live there.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Just Call Me Your Travel Guide

A few weeks ago, Hubby and I traveled with Son and Daughter-In-Law to spend a few days in a tropical paradise. And we didn't even need to leave the United States to do it.

On a dreary, chilly St. Louis Thursday morning, we hopped on a plane and flew to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Then we took off our jackets and rented a car, driving 3 and one half hours to arrive at our destination...Key West. At first I wasn't thrilled about such a long ride from the airport to our hotel, but then I realized the obvious. We were driving through the beautiful Florida Keys! A tough job, but we soldiered through it anyway.

What a place. Our hotel was a stone's throw from the ocean. It had stunning views with palm trees everywhere, a long boardwalk from which to view the sights, and best of all it was totally pet friendly. Each day an artist sculpted something interesting from sand for the guests to enjoy. This guy was my favorite:

Speaking of pet friendly, I think it's fair to say that pretty much all of Key West is pet friendly. People brought their pups to restaurants, bars, and shopping. In one restaurant I saw a cat napping in a comfy chair while the bartender's dog sat politely next to a bar stool and a customer's pup lounged beneath his table, perhaps waiting for a handout.

How about these cute boxer pups I discovered sitting outside a bar on Duval Street?

Nothing like a puppy fix to make a good day even better. But wait, there's more. Key West has chickens that roam pretty much wherever they want. Apparently the chickens belong to no one in particular, but everyone seems to love them. Unfortunately the chickens are a wee bit camera shy. You can see them fleeing from the photographer (aka me) below.

A huge boat race was going on that weekend and one night some of the enormous million-dollar boats were lined up on Duval Street for the fans to take a look. The streets were packed with people. I pointed out a man carrying a parrot and cockatoo. The next thing I knew...

What can I say? Proof that anything can happen.

This is your travel guide signing off until next time when I'll bring you more salty tales of Key West.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

NaNoWriMo Winner 2014

Each time I participate in NaNoWriMo, the arc of my enthusiasm is predictable. The first third of the month, I'm excited and writing with abandon. The second third of the month, I'm steady, but starting to sweat. The final third of the month I'm crawling toward the finish line as though it's a distant mirage while NEVER allowing myself to write a contraction (I get more words that way) and cursing every five minutes for thinking it was a good idea to NaNo.

The result? I have another NaNo manuscript completed. Well, not exactly completed. With 50,134 rough, raw, and rambunctious words, there's still a whole lot of work to do. But that doesn't matter. Thanks to the gentle persuasive efforts of NaNoWriMo, in the past six years I've written 4 manuscript drafts. Three are part of a romance trilogy, and the fourth is an historical fiction piece.

It's been a daunting task, but what a rush now that I'm done. I have four manuscripts under my belt. Even though they're not nearly ready, at least I have something to work with. And that's the beauty of NaNoWriMo. It's the perfect exercise to get words on paper daily and complete a major goal.

I'm happy I did it, but glad NaNo is over. My house has dust bunnies running rampant and the sound of Christmas carols is throwing me into a state of stunned panic.

November is almost over and I'm out of touch. What's been going on with you?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

NaNo Update

It's late. My eyes are bleary and my fingers are tired. Indy is curled in a little knot asleep at my feet while Bogey has commandeered my lap (and part of the keyboard).

Why do people participate in a mass group writing marathon like NaNoWriMo? Could it have something to do with being competitive? For me I suspect so. The question "What's your word count today?" has become my favorite phrase. And as soon as I hear what someone else has done, my petty little self sneaks back in to type more words because then I wrote more than they did.

It's the end of Day 13 and here's where I stand: 32,023 words.

Please don't tell me where you are. I'm too tired to stay up any later.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hello NaNo, Good-bye Sanity

It's almost here. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) happens every November. It's basically a writing challenge with the goal of producing a novel in 30 days. You can't start writing until November 1, and you don't stop until one of the following things happens:

  • at least 50,000 words have been completed
  • the clock announces midnight on November 30
  • you toss your computer out the window and give up

Last year I opted out of NaNo and felt guilty as a teenager caught cheating on their final exam. So this year, I'm back in and have been working on a rough outline and my main characters. Planning in advance is okay, and for me quite necessary. I'm not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of writer.

Part of the fun of NaNo is sharing the agony with other writers. My own writer's group is doing a NaNo kickoff party tonight where there will be much gnashing of teeth and discussion of strategy. Some writers will get together to work throughout the month in a true example of the many ways misery loves company. Marathon writing is a requirement. Editing is impossible. Achieving 50,000 words is priceless.

This will be my fourth NaNo project and will give me my fourth "novel". Don't I sound prolific?

To keep me on track, I'm going on blog break. I hope to post a few updates. After all, somebody has to hold me accountable, right?

If you're interested in jumping on the NaNo bandwagon, check out the NaNo website.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wee Wee Wee

Son's dog, Brady, often comes to stay at my house. Here he is modeling the latest in doggie fashion, with an expression that clearly says, "It isn't easy being green."

Brady is a Cairn Terrier with more issues than I can count. He's allergic to grass and tears his hair out so methodically that he looks like the poster child for a hair replacement commercial. To keep him from chewing his sides naked, he has his own wardrobe.

When it thunders, Brady barks non-stop. If he's outside, he charges around the yard while barking hysterically as though determined to scare away an evil hobgoblin.

He also has a food obsession and will grab anything edible from your hand, from your plate, or from any other place he can stretch tall enough to reach. Thwarting Brady can make eating dinner a true challenge.

Brady's latest accomplishment is "marking". He will occasionally do this at his house, but by far prefers to do it at other people's homes. Curtains and sofas are his favorite targets. Since this creates numerous problems for all concerned, Brady now has a new piece of wearing apparel.

Yes, it's a doggie diaper. Brady wore his diaper for the first time to Daughter's house on Sunday, since he particularly likes to mark when visiting her. We held our collective breath and discovered...success! Not once did Brady lift his leg. He was a perfect gentleman.

It may sound crazy, but it works. Diaper on when in the house, off when outside. Now the furniture is dry and the curtains remain spot free.

Who'd have thought doggie diapers would become our family's new best friend?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Illusion or Reality?

I have a friend from high school who loves to put pictures of herself on Facebook. There's certainly nothing wrong with posting selfies. In fact, it seems to be a pretty popular pastime. Friends do it. Celebrities do it. Even random people I've never met (nor am sure I want to) do it.

What caught my eye about my friend's picture is the way her face looked. Lovely. Line-free. Luminous. Now I know she's in great shape, but really? She's the exact same age as me. I've seen her in person (recently) many times. I decided her picture had to have been photoshopped, airbrushed, and/or tweaked in some way.

The idea put me on a quest to find my own photographic fountain of youth. I finally settled on one and experimented. Because if anyone needs to be "youthened" it's me.

My before picture, complete with bags, lines, and wrinkles:

After some minor photo fooling around:

H'mmm. Almost like a mini face-lift without the cutting, stitching, or pain. 

From what I've observed, in the competitive world of author pictures on book covers, actors playing roles, or a head shot on the cover of a magazine, appearance counts. But will there be a disconnect when the inevitable meeting occurs and the face doesn't match the photo? Or maybe people have come to expect that few things are what they appear to be, particularly on-line dating sites where I wonder if photo-enhancing may result in some major disappointments.

I have to admit, I'm vain enough to prefer my "improved" version. Primarily because that's how my brain still thinks I look. Needless to say, it's always a shock when the mirror tells me something different. 

So what do you think? Is photo enhancing a blessing or a curse? Would you do it if it might help your career or are you a this-is-me-take-it-or-leave-it kind of person?

If you're interested in the app I used, it's called Perfect365. This app was free to download to my iPhone. And if you want to do crazy things to your photo (weird makeup, wigs, etc), Perfect365 can do that, too. (Note: I am not being compensated for this post. I stumbled across the app and thought it would be fun to share)

I'm curious. If you've found a cool photo app (preferably free), please let me know. I may have become addicted. 

By the way, just for fun I tried to de-age and beautify Indy. The app scanned his picture and told me "face not recognized".

Okay, so maybe I need a shave.