Sunday, March 24, 2013

Twenty-One Reasons to Live Like a Dog

I had to share this moving story from a veterinarian (unknown) about a little boy who loses his dog to cancer. The end really struck me. If everyone lived life like a dog, it would be a much happier world.  Here it is:

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker ‘s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ”I know why.”

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try to live.

He said,”People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued,  ”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

Observe most dogs and you'll notice that they:
Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was a teacher you would learn things like:
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

Take naps.

Stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.

If what you want to know lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

My top three (couldn't pick just one):  Be loyal;  Allow the experience of fresh air and wind in your face to be pure ecstasy;  If you want to know what lies buried, dig until you find it.  
What's your favorite? 
A moving short short story set to the music of I Will Always Return by Bryan Adams—really depicts the devotion of a faithful dog:  



Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The President Kennedy, James Bond & St. Patrick's Day Connection

Most of us know that some of President Kennedy's greatest contributions include the successful handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, creating the Peace Corps, and originating the American space program. However, I was surprised to learn that he inadvertently played a primary role in launching the career of entertainment superstar, Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond Series.

In 1953, Fleming published his first novel, Casino Royale, through Johnathan Cape Publishing House and it was moderately successful in England. More novels were published, but soon Fleming faced harsh reviews including this one from Paul Johnson of the New Statesmen about Dr. No: "Mr. Fleming has no literary skill, the construction of the book is chaotic, and entire incidents and situations are inserted, and then forgotten, in a haphazard manner." Fleming was also frequently criticized for his use of  sex, snobbery, and sadism in his stories. According to Fleming's biographer, the spy novelist "went into personal and creative decline after marital problems and attacks on his work."

Despite self-doubt, Fleming persisted and wrote: For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, and Goldfinger. Then came his big break. On March 17, 1961, an article in Life Magazine listed From Russia, with Love as one of President John F. Kennedy's ten favorite books. In one moment Ian Fleming's life changed. According to Wikipedia, "This accolade and the associated publicity led to a surge in sales that made Fleming the biggest-selling crime writer in the United States.

We all know what happened from there. At least one hundred million James Bond books have been sold since that article appeared and the films have grossed $4,910,000,000 (over $12,360,000,000 when adjusted for inflation). It's the second highest grossing film series behind Harry Potter.

So when you're celebrating the Patron Saint of Ireland with shamrock balloons, parades and green beer this St. Patrick's Day, also pay tribute to our first Irish President, John F. Kennedy who gave Ian Fleming the boost he needed on March 17 fifty-two years ago.

Lesson to be learned: If you wrote a book and want some publicity, forget about mailing a copy to Oprah. The President of the U.S. might be a better choice. Hmm...I wonder what Barack Obama likes to read.


During Casino Royale's final draft stages, Fleming allowed his friend William Plomer to see a copy. Plomer remarked, "So far as I can see the element of suspense is completely absent."

In honor of James Bond, we need a video. Let's go with Goldeneye starring an Irish Bond, Pierce Brosnan, with Tina Turner singing the theme song:


What's your favorite Bond movie? Better yet, who's your favorite Bond?  Mine:  Pierce Brosnan!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Ultimate Renewal

We all love kick back moments. Those snippets in our day that remind us to slow down, like hearing rain beat on the ground, singing along with Frank Sinatra when he pops up on our iPod, looking at the sky, which always offers us an inspirational image. Sometimes however, we need more than a moment to reconnect with ourselves—to experience peace and solitude. I had that opportunity one weekend in February when I spent three days at an immaculate, rustic lodge called Packbasket Adventures tucked on the far side of the Adirondack Mountains. Pristine snow was plentiful and silence was abundant.  TV, Broadband Internet, and traffic were no where to be found. What was available were the scents of a crackling fire and fresh air, conversation among friends, outdoor activities, and the special energy that seeps through our skin when we're immersed in nature.

The big bonus was all meals were cooked for us by the owners, Rick and Angie, who also had plenty of stories about owning a farm in Vermont and their adventures in the Adirondacks, which resulted in hearty laughs. Showing is usually better then telling so take a look at these photos of what a true kick back weekend looks like:

        Packbasket Adventures Lodge
Wanakena, NY

 Relaxing with coffee in the great room

Much warmth generated from this fireplace that
doubles as a wood fired oven—delicious pizza!

View from the kitchen

Rick and Angie cook for us.

Breakfast time!
The front yard

 Into the woods

Lunch Break

Keith and I—Relaxed!

Rick and Angie provide supreme hospitality!

The only problem with my getaway to Packbasket Adventures is it ended. I did however, manage to bring a sense of tranquility home with me that I can call upon anytime I choose to sit back, close my eyes, and remember. In the spirit of sharing, please do yourself a favor and check out this wonderful spot: Thanks for creating this haven, Rick and Angie!

Please share anyplace you've travled to that provided a true sense of clam—even if it's that comfy lounge chair in your backyard.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Joy of Giving

I began seriously writing almost four years ago. It started with an idea I had while watching two men play chess in Dupont Circle, DC. Since then I have re-written my novel, "A Stop in in the Park", three times, edited it over and over, finally published it, created a blog, dabbled in short stories (much prefer the novel), am 2/3 through the first draft of my second novel, queried more literary agents than I care to list, learned a college degree's worth of information on fiction, made many new friends, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Yes. I am on a writer's journey and I have encountered many peaks and valleys along the way.

One of the peaks is hosting a giveaway. They began as a way to promote "A Stop in the Park" and have evolved into a monthly (for now) marketing event that I sincerely enjoy. The prize may be a basket of comfort (a book, hot chocolate, cookies, and a candle), but prefer to select four books based on a theme—often accompanied by a dozen cookies from Bake For You. It's so much fun picking out the books, posting them on my Facebook page, getting "likes" as a way to enter. I also get a kick out of reading the comments people leave. When the winner is announced, there's genuine excitement and gratitude. The biggest joy however, is thanking those who have supported me on my writer's journey. My only regret is: everyone can't win.

The cost involved is minimal and I like being a consumer for the struggling publishing industry. It's important to support books, bookstores, and authors, or they will go away. It really is a win-win.  I spread the word about "A Stop in the Park", always smile when I see a new "like" on my Facebook page, offer a contest that people get excited about, support books and a local baking business, nurture my innate joy of giving, and thank my customers and friends.      

So.....what's my latest giveaway?

St. Patrick's Day Giveaway!    

     The winner will receive four books having something to do with Ireland:
Irish Travel: Extraordinary Dreams of an Ireland Traveler by Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins 
Irish Mystery: False Mermaid by Erin Hart
Irish Thriller: Faithful Place by Tana French
Irish Green Cover: A Stop in the Park by Peggy Strack (had to think of some way to get my book in this giveaway :-)
One Dozen Shamrock Shortbread Cookies from Bake For You
Just go to my Facebook page, click "like" on the giveaway post and you're entered. I do mail, so you can live anywhere.