Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cute as a Button

          Children like to challenge you.  How’s that for the Obvious Statement of the Day?  But what young parents don’t realize, is that this continues well into adulthood, as evidenced by our fully grown, eldest son, who recently set out to prove me wrong when I said, “That is cute as a button.”
          I love buttons.  They are cute, right?  When does our love of buttons begin—as babies when we get buttoned up for a cold day? 
When we read about Peter Rabbit and the buttons on his coat? 
When we find a box of them and pretend they’re pirates’ jewels?
When we learn to sew and carefully choose the best buttons we can find?
Whatever.  Buttons are universally recognized as being cute.  And there’s a cliché to prove it.  But Richie has never accepted anything without challenging it, so he immediately found the following examples to disprove my sweeping statement:

And now, my dear readers, we will all have to start saying, “That is cute as most buttons.”  Or just switch it up entirely and say, “That is cute as a puppy.”
Don’t start with me, Richie.

Loosen your buttons and relax with one of my books—you can find them in hard copies and as ebooks right here.  And check out my YouTube Mom videos, too!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bear With Me

          What is it about winter that makes us think of bears?  They aren’t even around, right? They’re hibernating.  Maybe it’s because polar bears make us think of snow, or bear fur makes us think of warm coats.  Whatever the reason, bears come to mind.
And, having grown up in the Rocky Mountains, I am one of many who has a bear story. I was a little kid at the time, probably 8 years old, my sister 13.  We had just gone on a family vacation to Yellowstone.  This was back when black bears happily roamed the park (hence the creation of the Yogi Bear and Jellystone Park cartoon).
People weren’t supposed to feed them, but then people aren’t supposed to break speed limits, overeat, blah blah blah.  People break rules.  In fact, waaaay earlier the park even had bleachers set up by the trash dump, where people would sit and watch the bears rummage through bean cans and banana peels.  Finally this was stopped, as officials realized that garbage is bad for bears.  It’s even worse for humans because tourists would occasionally get gobbled up along with the orange rinds.
But in my childhood, you knew to steer clear of bears.  Maybe roll down your car window an inch or so, and toss out a lifesaver or a slice of bread, and then snap a picture.  But basically stay away from them.
Unfortunately, no one has trained bears to avoid humans.  So when my dad, an avid fly fisherman known for his uncanny ability to sense a good bend in the river, pulled over into a meadow and took off in his waders for a perfect place to fish, the rest of us waited inside the car, where it was safe. 
Dad disappeared into the trees, and we sat.  Within five minutes, we saw a gigantic bear lumbering towards us from the far end of the meadow.  Instinctively, we locked our doors.
He got closer.  And then closer.  We looked around to see if there was something else he could be heading for, but we were the only item of distinction in the meadow.
Within seconds he was behind our car, his long nose jabbing up into the air as he sniffed.  It was at this moment that my mother realized she had wrapped up some bacon and put it in the trunk.  Yikes.
The bear took a swipe at our bumper.  Then at the fenders, denting them in.  He growled.  He knew there was bacon somewhere in this metal contraption.  He placed his mammoth paws atop the trunk and pushed down, bouncing the car on its shock absorbers.
“Don’t move!” my mother whispered.  But the bear was bouncing my sister and me like ping pong balls on a trampoline.
Now he roared, slammed all his weight onto the trunk, broke the car’s axle and popped a tire. It also bent the lid in enough to pop it open, revealing all our luggage and, of course, the bacon. Here's someone else's car after a bear got to it:
My mother was shrieking, my sister was wailing that she had now sat on a fish hook, and I was frozen in panic.  The bear rummaged hungrily through our belongings, piercing a 3-inch thick book with his teeth, and finally finding the bacon.  A few chomps later he sauntered off, apparently unwilling to break windows and eat screaming females.
No way were we going to open the doors and survey the damage.  Besides, my sister’s fish hook was her greatest concern and getting a barbed hook out of human flesh is no small project.
Two minutes later my father returned, having decided this was not the best fishing spot after all.  But as he approached the car, you can imagine his surprise.  The trunk lid was up, clothing was strewn all around, and the entire back end of the car was destroyed, like a bomb had gone off.  Here's what a bear did to an airplane just this year:
“What on earth happened? I was gone ten minutes!”
And that, my friends, is all it takes. 

You can read even more hair-raising adventures in JUNGLE, my adventure romance novel that will take you to an uncharted island in the Indian Ocean.  You can find it in hard copy or e-book here!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dig Yourself Out of This One

         Holey Moley. Sacramento has more trees per capita than any other city in the world, save Paris—and that, only because they annexed a forest.  So you are told on tours of our State Capitol, and I believe it.
          I love trees.  And I am honored to have planted more of them than I can count over my lifetime. But I blew it a few years ago and planted two trees entirely too close together.
          First, I dumped a truckload of dirt onto the lawn to create a berm.  This may seem like a cosmetic choice to create varying heights, but in fact is the only way to garden in Rocklin, which used to be a granite quarry.  Unless you have a jack-hammer, which is how we planted a big Chinese Elm once.
          Next, I planted a dwarf Blue Spruce in the new mound.  This is in honor of that being Utah’s state tree (where I grew up) and also because I wanted a Christmas tree to decorate in the yard. 
          Several feet away I planted a Japanese Maple, whose red leaves I thought would provide a nice contrast with the silvery spruce.  Except the spruce didn’t stay a dwarf.  It grew and grew, finally scrunching the poor maple.
          I consulted with my arborist friends, Ruth and Clare Williams, and learned that the best time to transplant the maple would be NOW.  In the cold.  As soon as the last leaf falls.  I watched and waited.  First I spent an afternoon trimming all the shrubs in the area, so the tree would have plenty of room and look intentionally put there.  Then I asked eldest son, Richie, to help dig a hole for the maple’s new home, a few more feet away.  
                LIFE TIP: Do not ask engineers to weigh in on creative decisions and do not ask geologists to dig holes.  It turns out that geologists use giant vacuums when they dig, so as not to disturb utility pipes.  Guess who got to hold the vacuum for HOURS, sucking dirt out of a hole so the maple could fit?  And, since this was only a Shop Vac, it jammed full of dirt clods every few minutes and had to be cleaned out, slamming the suction tube against the ground to loosen the clay, like I’m an octopus wrestler.
Finally we got a hole big enough to bury an unruly pet.  Not that I’m planning to do this.  But it was not big enough to accommodate six feet of maple tree roots.  Furthermore, the maple trunk was firmly ensconced in the berm, unwilling to budge without another entire day of labor devoted to digging it out.  And they cost hundreds of dollars to replace, should it die.
So we decided to leave the maple exactly where it is, and live with the crowded landscape.  We declared a moral victory, gave the hole a proper burial, and filled it in.  Visiting hours are from 10 to 5.

Have you seen my newly designed website here?  Check it out, buy books, watch my YouTube Mom videos, and stay entirely too busy to garden.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Going to the Dogs

You might remember an amazing dog act that won America’s Got Talent  a couple of years ago—The Olate Dogs.
          Great story, too—the man who started it all began as a poor boy in Chile, and even invented his own technique because he couldn’t afford the dog treats so commonly used for rewards.  Today his grown son is on stage with him, along with about eight poodle-mix rescue dogs, all of whom appear to adore their trainers and eagerly entertain the crowds.
          Well, they recently came to Rocklin, California, where I live.  St. Bob and I attended one of their performances and were astounded at the tricks and stunts these dogs could do.  In costumes, yet.  I can only assume that not one of them has ADD, because they seemed not a bit distracted by their clothing, nor by all the other pooches on stage.  (Then again, nobody released a squirrel, so we can’t be totally sure.) 
          The performers all willingly posed for pictures afterwards, and a good time was had by all.
          That is, until we got home.  And there sat our completely untrained, spoiled rotten dog, Mickey.  
           When you dress Mickey in a costume, it must tickle her somehow, because she holds up one leg, as if she is a boy answering a call of nature.
          I have actually trained her to do yoga (by rewarding her for her morning stretches, which she would do anyway), 
and to run around the coffee table (which she also likes to do anyway).  Otherwise, she ignores any attempt at getting her to entertain us, unless you count chasing the cat, which I do not.
To prove she is an outlaw, she even devises hideouts. 
It’s possible that the Olate family has a knack for choosing smart, trainable dogs.  Or, more likely, they simply know what they’re doing.  Maybe one day they’ll offer a summer camp and Mickey can attend for a couple of weeks.  But you and I both know she’ll pretend she doesn’t know a thing, once she gets home.

Take a break from training your dog, and read some of my novels.  You can find a book for every mood, right here.