Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shining a Light on Newtown; A Different Perspective

Almost every blogger did a post about Newtown; every blogger except me. It certainly wasn't because I wasn't sorrowful and affected like the rest of the US, but I just wasn't sure where to start. While the nation grieved, I thought about myself and my own family. It was a selfish thing, but let me explain. You see, my family was affected by a school shooting back before school shootings were all the rage, literally.

My uncle Carl's sister-in-law, Deanna McDavid, was shot in the head, killed by one of her students as the other students watched in utter disbelief. I'm sure unless you are related to me or you happened to be from the area, you didn't even know about this incident. It was big news, being one of the first school shootings, but there was no immediate media hype like today, no instant Internet blitz to alert the world that my family bubble had been burst.

It happened in the sleepy little town where I visited my dad's family on a regular basis over my forty-three years; my grandma, two aunts, and two uncles, my cousins, and extended families. Even though Deanna was on my uncle's wife's side of the family, I spent time with them growing up. Deanna's kids were my cousin's age and I spent a lot of time with my aunt Betty (Deanna's sister) and uncle Carl and I have been blessed to know them. They are outgoing, spirited, and kind. They have endured unspeakable tragedy.

When I heard about the shooting at Newtown, I suppose it hit me in a different way than most. Frankly, I found myself less upset than most and if you know me, that would surprise you. I am easy to cry. Yes, it was tragic. The sheer number involved and the fact that they were children was heartbreaking, but the truth is that I had "been there, done that" nearly twenty years ago. That sounds terrible, but if you have trouble wondering why people react in certain ways to certain things, perhaps this article will shed some light for you.

Am I hardened? Not necessarily. I remember being very affected by Columbine and the Virginia Tech shootings. I vividly remember watching TV coverage of Virginia Tech and bawling like a baby. I remember choking back tears as I told my boyfriend's young son about Columbine and then soaking up the media details, trying to understand.

Most people want to understand why and how someone could do such a thing. Now, years later, there are plenty of articles on the Internet about the shooting at East Carter High School where my aunt's sister and a custodian were killed. One article I read stated that he didn't have a beef with Deanna, but he wanted to kill two random people so that he would be eligible for the death penalty. His logic didn't work. He remains in jail to this day.

Did you know there have been 386 school shootings since 1992? Here's a website with statistics Stop The Shootings and I must be honest, I had no idea there were that many. Not all involved fatalities. Does this make them any less impactful?

No, the incidents were tragic in each case, I'm sure. Not all involved children or teachers being shot. Not all involved a troubled teen saying to one of my family members, "Shut up, bitch," and then carrying out his own version of a death sentence on her just one day before her 49th birthday.

As a writer, this story is personal for me in more ways than one. Deanna was an English teacher. Prior to killing her, Gary Scott Pennington had turned in writing assignments with content that concerned her and she had given him a C grade which he thought might affect his college prospects. His killing method was eerily based on Stephen King's novel (published under a pseudonym), Rage, about a student who kills his teacher in front of students -- in Kentucky, no less. Coincidence? It's debatable. The things Gary Scott Pennington said in his shooting were eerily similar, but in life, I've had eerie coincidences more than a few times. There is reporting to say that he read it before the killings and reporting to say that he didn't.

Can writing influence action among a readership? Certainly! This would not be the first time King's story was connected to a school shooting, nor would it be the last. Do I blame Stephen King for Deanna's murder? No way. That would be stupid. I used to be a huge Stephen King fan. I am no killer, nor do I use it as a springboard for my own twisted mind, but some do.

I don't blame his writing as a tool of destruction any more than I blame the gun. It is the person behind it who remains ultimately responsible. Had it not been a story idea or an availability of guns, he would have found another way to express his mental state of frustration. Perhaps a bomb or a knife would have been the weapon of choice. He would have found some thing, some way, some awful end to make his point stick in the collective mind.

Here are a few articles about the crime.
People Magazine: Reading, Writing and Murder
US News: The Tragedy in Room 108 (Thank you, Jerry Buckley, for allowing me to get to know her even better through your great writing).

I didn't watch much coverage on Newtown and the tragedy at Sandy Hook. I give the victims the honor they deserve, lives lost too soon, but I refuse to let fear and depression grip me and keep me in its hold where my life is concerned. I just won't do it. Why? I've wasted too much time with that sort of focus in the past and it did me no good. Rather, it was detrimental. I smile and laugh, not out of insensitivity and denial, but in the face of the devil. He won't have me. He can't have me... unless I allow it.

After the most recent school shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook, I posted on a humor thread about the appropriateness of using humor again after tragedy and got the following response from a man who put things into a different perspective when he replied:

" for me, I learned this news just 10 minutes back from Humor Writers! I am exactly on the opposite side of the globe... partly, the result of not being able to afford to live in the U.S. any longer, and met no one who told me this. I would have had to meet an American, no Cambodian would consider this to be news. Now when 350 people died here because of the collapse of a bridge, that was news. I think that gives a sense of perspective. We feel the loss of those close to us, but tragedy from a distance does not touch us. ???"

Wow, he is so right! It really hit me, that particular sentence, "no Cambodian would consider this to be news." It's all about what we're exposed to on a regular basis. Is the school shooting more tragic than genocide? Deaths in hurricane Katrina? Lives lost when the Titanic went down?

These children killed at Sandy Hook are a sad reminder that tragedy happens and our children are not safe. However, it did not make me hug my children tighter, tell them I love them more, or get up in arms about gun control. It simply reminded me that every day is a quiet blessing and if you are treating them any differently than you did the day before, you are doing them a disservice.

You should be hugging them every day as though today could be the last. I've already learned in life that the tragedy can be you, your neighbor, your cousin, your friend, or your child. It can happen in a thousand different ways. Illness, accidents, tragic circumstances or whatever, it can all be over in the blink of an eye. So do we cease to blink? No, we learn to keep one eye open and see more clearly between blinks, that's all.

As I engaged in my 2012 Christmas rituals with my husband and children yesterday, my thoughts drifted to the families and community of Newtown and I realized how blessed I am. I am between tragedies. Will they happen again in my lifetime? You can be sure of it. Am I better prepared? Never. But I am gaining new perspectives throughout my years and that helps me to see things in different light. In the darkest days, I sometimes need that light.

I choose to use that light to celebrate the lives of those lost and not mourn for too long. Those I have loved and lost would never want to see me grieve long-term. It's so destructive. Long-term grief and anger eat away the very fibers of faith, love, and happiness and pull your focus to the dark side. I've lost much in my lifetime and have only begun to hint at it in my writing. I've learned much about keeping a light on in the process.

My light burns for you tonight, your little ones, your mothers and fathers, your friends, and even your enemies. Remember, you can be a Stephen King kind of Shining, or a Shining light of your own design. The choice is up to you. Please share how you shine in the light of this tragedy in your unique way. Have you instilled hope in your children? Comforted a friend? Helped someone cope with it all? I'd like to hear from you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jane, You Ignorant (finish it if you know it)

I am sooooooo stupid. This was proven to me this morning by Dr. Probst, our local vet. I do not hide my stupidity from anyone and this is one of the reasons I have such an interesting blog. Case in point:

Everyone at my house has been sick lately. My youngest just got over a horrible ear infection, my oldest isn't feeling well, my husband missed a day of work this week due to a horrible head cold, and my poor dog Buddy had developed some symptoms which gave me concern enough to call the vet.

If you've read this blog very long, you are aware of a few things about me. I raise Great Pyrenees dogs and we live in the country on a road that runs into a creek, so it's only a through road if you have a 4-wheel drive. Buddy is my 150 lb. male Great Pyrenees, daddy of all the cute little puppies I proudly sell. We have two left from a litter now, almost 11 weeks old. I love my big daddy dog, simply to pieces!

Almost two weeks ago, we came home and Buddy was limping, missing a tiny patch of fur on one leg, and had a lovely new tire mark tattoo on his rear. You would think on a "dead end" road, there would not be much traffic, but we are hicks around here and four wheel drive vehicles are plentiful. Traffic (mostly teenagers and good 'ol boys) will whiz by, careening recklessly around the curve by my house like Mario Andretti. Buddy is a car chaser.

Yes, we've tried a shock collar, but he is a fluffball with an undercoating of thicker fluffball and it didn't do the job, so we are still looking at options to deter him. Most locals are courteous and just slow down to pass by, but some idiots actually try to hit him. Apparently, an idiot visited our neck of the woods that night while we were out.

We examined him and determined all was well. No broken bones, no yelping out when we touched anything, etc. and observed him the next few days. He was fine within three days, bouncing around, running like normal, and engaging in horseplay with his wife, Penny.

Then this past Saturday night, I came home and Buddy came from the back of our property by the woods and he and Penny were both acting funny, skittish, barking and whining, etc. I figured they had a possum up a tree or something. The next day, I noticed Buddy was walking funny, like his back end was hurting and he was whimpering a lot. He started spending a lot of time on the porch laying around and I could tell something wasn't right. Penny would try to play with him and he'd look at her like, "Leave me alone... can't you see I don't feel like playing?"

By Monday evening, he couldn't stand up very well and wasn't gallivanting around like normal, so I decided to check his underside out while he was laying down. I could tell he didn't feel good. I noticed he had some yellow-greenish discharge from his penis, he had a raw area on the inside of the thigh, he was having trouble peeing, and when his peter poked out, it looked angry, red and irritated. He kept looking at me like, "Do something!"

So yesterday, I went to the vet's office to pick up some worming supplies for the dogs and I plopped down into the chair and said to the secretary, "We need to talk about my dog's penis." She looked at me like I was insane, one eyebrow curiously raised. My theory was that when he was hit, something had been damaged down there internally and he now had an infection or injury that wasn't healing. She thought maybe he'd had a fight with coyotes, which is possible. We have some livestock and 12 acres, so we hear them out here all the time and the dogs run them off. She would send doc to my house to take a look, but he couldn't come until mid-morning today.

Early this morning, I checked him again. He willingly opened his legs as if to say, "Help it, my pee pee hurts!" I could immediately see that something was very wrong. Oh, no! His penis was very swollen, he had the discharge again, he was shaking like a leaf, and now he had two very large lumps under the skin about halfway down the shaft. I was sure he had a raging infection or blockage of the urinary tract, or possibly cancer. Poor baby! I took my daughter to school, did my errands at Hell Wal-Mart, and I called the vet first thing to see when he could come over. I was certain Buddy was near death.

When I got home from my errands, Buddy had miraculously transformed into the old Buddy again. He was walking better, the lumps on his penis were gone, and he reluctantly played with Penny a bit, who kept jumping excitedly on his back in an effort to land his attention. "Maybe he had a blockage and he passed it," I thought. I noticed he was still having a bit of trouble peeing and still didn't play like he normally would and his gait still looked a bit stiff, so I decided to go ahead and have the vet check him out.

When the vet arrived, we got Buddy down and rolled over and I began describing the horrible lumps he had earlier. He checked him out and I pointed out the lump location. The vet began his diagnosis, "Okay, in this that location, there are glands..."

I interrupted, "They were huge this morning!" I formed my fingers into unhulled walnut sized circles for visual reference, but the vet interrupted me back.

"Let me finish!" Geez, he sounded so snippy. "Those glands become very enlarged when the dog is sexually excited. He was horny!"

I looked at him and said, "You're kidding me."

"Nope. Your dog was horny. Has he been mating someone? Is your female in heat?"

At that moment, a flood of realization hit me. Shit. Yes, I just cursed. So, sue me.

"Well, she was jumping on him earlier, but she still has puppies that aren't even 11 weeks old! She can't be in heat yet, can she?"

"It's usually every six months, but sometimes they can go in early."

The vet was already hurrying back to his truck as he spoke. I'm not sure if he was hurrying to try and get in the truck before he busted out laughing or if he was extremely perturbed that he had to come to my house for a "my dog is horny" call.

I came back in the house and as I looked out the door at my dogs, I could clearly hear in my head the iconic late '70's voice of Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live Weekend Update saying to Jane Curtin, "Jane, you ignorant slut!"

I started laughing hysterically and couldn't stop. Tears filled my eyes, I couldn't believe how stupid I was. Poor Buddy had been walking funny because he had blue balls! Of course his penis was swollen - he was horny! Of course, he didn't want to "play" with Penny, she was wearing him out with all the sex and that look toward her was, "Oh my God, no, no, no... not again. Bitch, please! I can barely walk, much less urinate! You're killing me. My penis is so engorged, mom had to call the vet, for God's sake."

I was supposed to go to my mom's today, but I had canceled... because my dog was sick a horndog.

I worried about my dog's life and health because he was sick a horndog.

I now know the true meaning of horndog.

Thankfully, the vet didn't charge me for my stupidity, but hey, it's not like I ever look at his pee pee under normal circumstances and I did not have any idea Penny was in heat. None!

I sent my husband a text at work with the news and got the following reply, "Saw work nurse today. Found out why I've been sick. Turns out I'm just horny. Said I need to have sex with my wife immediately!"

I replied, "ha ha."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

No, I Am Not Down Wit' OPP

Naughty by Nature did a song about it back in the '90's. Are you down with OPP? Well, I'm certainly not. Wait, we're talking about the same thing here, aren't we? Other People's Pubes? Sure we are!

So, I'm in the shower the other day, humming a little tune and in a generally good mood, when I glance over at the ledge which is supposed to hold innocuous shower stuffs, and I stop cold in mid-songbird. There it was, just staring at me... a pubic hair!

Uber-annoying Janice on Friends couldn't have said it any better. Oh. My. Gawd!

Oh. My. Gawd.
You'd think I'd never seen one before. It might as well have been a spider, the way I reacted. I went all Anita Hill recounting a Clarence Thomas Coke can incident, in full scream (inside my head) accusation mode, "Who put the pubic hair on my shower ledge?"

If you don't have to deal with OPP, then you are one lucky mama, but I am forced to deal with it often. First of all, I have to clean the toilets in this joint. Trust me, the hairs of nether-region origin hang out there.

Let me be the first to point out that there are substances on toilets that many mere humans will not even touch, especially if they belong to someone else or in this case, fell off of or out of someone else. I must touch these things because it is my domestic duty. That means nobody else in the house will do it, so I am forced to scrub the toilets.

Worse yet, I clean for a relative and I have to deal with OPP there also. Housekeepers of the world, may I just say that the respect I have for you is great. Other people's pubes are one thing when it's your own house and your own tribe, but when you have to cleanse a foreign toilet of its ookies, well, that takes a special person. I am that special person.

So the pubic hair in my shower was not that surprising since the shower is location number two on the Family Feud board when asked, "Places you might find a pubic hair," but I just couldn't figure out how it got up there! It should be at hip level and go down, not rise up to greet me on the shelf at shoulder level somehow, not a foot from my face, agreed? I do expect agreement here.

If it's in the bottom of the shower, you can take care of it much easier. You can poke it with a toe and guide water its way to coax it down the drain. But up there? Well, that takes ingenuity to get it down the drain without touching it with your hand. You have to fashion a water irrigation system out of your body parts that will reach the hair with the right angle and force to dislodge it and send it drainward.

I accomplished the task with some difficulty and body contortion, for the angle was high, my friends, being up on the shelf and all.

I pondered how it came to be there in the first place while I finished my shower. In case you were wondering, singing was now out of the question.

It could have hitched a ride on a bar of soap, undetected... you know, stealth mode. That happens. I get that. However, there was no bar of soap in the vicinity.

It could have been from our teen daughter who insisted on using our shower because hers was clogged with what else, HAIR! It would not drain, leaving her and her sister standing ankle deep in water. Instead of cleaning out the drain, she did the lazy teenager thing and jumped ship... er, shower and invaded ours. Eww! Not my daughter's pube, puh-lease!

Trust me, I fixed their shower after this particular OPP incident, just in case. There was a substance in there I can barely speak of, much of which was hair. Hair and other gag-me substance. Oh, and also a part of a razor and naturally, a hair tie.

Back to my shower... the pube could have been placed there by Clarence Thomas or Anita Hill. This would be a heck of a conspiracy theory and is the least likely scenario.

And of course, don't forget the irrational fear version. It could have crawled there on its own accord and positioned itself there just to startle me. You know, a different kind of OPP - otherworldly paranormal pubes.

Isn't it funny how we can tolerate OPP in sexual situations with our spouse, but in the wrong setting, one tiny hair freaks us the crap out? Truth is, my husband has curly black hair at the base of his neck that could pose as a pubic hair if it got long enough. I'm hoping that's what was really in the shower. I'd be much less traumatized if it was a rogue neck hair.

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tag! You're It (and you don't even know it)!

Melanie Conklin writes YA and MG novels. She doesn't know me. I don't know her. She's probably wondering why in the heck I'm featuring her on my blog. I may not even tell her. I'll just give her a nod and see if somebody says, "Hey, I saw you were on Everyday Underwear the other day," and she'll be all like, "You saw me in my underwear where?"

She's in a group I'm in on SheWrites and in a thread I contribute to frequently. I get a lot of notifications of other blog posts to read in this thread, too many to have the time to address. Some I delete without a thought, some titles catch my eye and pull me in, and sometimes I just check somebody's work out for the heck of it, which is what happened with Melanie Conklin.

Melanie received the Very Inspired Blog Award. What I found in her post was a very good approach to an award if you're not a sharer (unlike moi... I can share my business with noooo problem). Melanie chose to share what she has learned from design and how it can apply to writing instead of sharing facts about herself. A fellow rule breaker! I like her already.

Anyway, I thought it was worth sharing. Nice to meet you, Melanie! Fellow writers, look out... you never know when you might unexpectedly end up in my Everyday Underwear. I mean that in the cleanest way possible.

Here's a teaser:
"5. YOUR IDEAS ARE NOT YOUR BABIES. If ideas were babies, and designers kept every idea they ever thought of, every designer would have millions of children. So when you get upset about cutting something, remember..."

Check out Melanie's design/writing tips here!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Do You Read Me? I Could be the Next Big Thing.

I have a few little housekeeping details for you today. No, not like cleaning the toilet (by the way, look out... my next actual commentary humor post is going to be about pubic hairs) or washing windows. It's a little Cindy Brown Everyday Underwear writing career housekeeping.

If you read me (and I assume you do, or your eyeballs would not be ogling my website right now), I need to ask a favor. I entered a contest in which I could receive a feature and a mention if I make it into the top 25. Circle of Moms has a Top 25 Book Author Moms category and since I am now a published author, I entered, not really thinking I'd even rate. I started at #54 and quickly jumped to #24, then other votes knocked me back into last week, so to speak, but I'm still close!


I need a push to get back into the Top 25. Please click here and hit the gold circle with the thumbs up to vote for me. Just two clicks, nothing to sign up for, etc. I will love you forever and have your babies if you vote for me. That's a boldfaced lie. I don't birth no babies for nobody. However, I would sincerely appreciate the vote. Voting ends tomorrow, December 7th, 2012 at 4 p.m. PST. You can vote once a day, so you could even vote today and again in 24 hours - or tomorrow if you forget today or don't read me until tomorrow, you know, leaving me languishing in your e-mail... waiting... waiting... waiting.

My book finally came in the mail! As soon as I get some stock, I will put it up on the site for purchase. For now, though, this is my baby! Isn't it cute?

I am one proud mama!
NUMBRERO THREE: (to heck with it, I don't speak Spanish)
I've been invited to join the Next Big Thing blog hop several times and never did it. Until Norine Dworkin-McDaniel posted about it. Nancy Hinchliff tagged Susan Bearman of 2KoP, Susan added Norine, Norine's adding me, etcetera, etcetera, etceter-ahhh. Check out their sites, as well as a few others I've learned about from Norine's post, and keep things hopping.

Please check out my fellow blogger goddess Kelly Hashway who will be posting her Next Big Thing post on 12/12/12. She is the author of many books and will be promoting her YA Novella, Love All. UPDATE! Here's the link.

Shari Brady: Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye is a story about Carmella D'Agostino, an average sixteen-year-old girl who is faced with coming to terms with her older sister's accidental drug overdose and death. Through Carmella's eyes, we witness the courage and strength it takes for her and her family to overcome their grief and guilt.

Christine Wolf: Christine's manuscript is called My Life Afloat—With her parents both out of work, the anchors of Maeve's "normal" life come undone. Riding the waves of her family's private shame, 12-year-old Maeve tries to save the family from sinking, even as their ship heads toward catastrophe. Christine blogs at My Life Afloat on her website and Riding theWaves on Chicago Now.

Norine Dworkin-McDaniel:  The book-to-be is a collection of essays from by blog Don't Put Lizards In Your Ears about my being a late in life mom, done "snap-shot style" a la "Shit My Dad Says".

Also, check out my friend Chris Dean who finally did her Big Thing post: My Next Big (Pfft!) Thing!

Do I have a book of my own? Well, yeah, I kinda do! I have started writing a book, many years ago, actually. It's something I hope to complete in the next 8 months to take to the BlogHer '13 conference with me.

My Next Big Thing Q&A's:

1. What is the working title of your book or project? Forty Days Without a Face.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book or project? I journaled a bit during a life-changing experience.

3. What genre does it fall under, if any? Probably self-help or religious/women's issues.

4. If applicable, who would you choose to play your characters in a movie? Charlize Theron, totally!

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript or project? Fasting from hair and makeup for forty days revealed more than skin deep beauty for Cindy Brown... it shed harsh light on her fears and insecurities ripping away the mask she wore to hide her disturbing past.

6. Will your book or story be self-published or represented by an agency? I am hoping to be picked up by an agent or publishing house, but if not... well, self-publishing - here I come!

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? That is incomplete at this time.

8. What other book or stories would you compare this story to within the genre? I once searched for books on different types of fasting, but found none on fasting from pride, so I am not sure there are any to compare to. I once saw somebody start a Facebook group of women challenged to do the same thing, but the participants quickly dropped out, so they discontinued the group!

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book or story? A friend, Rebecca Merten, shared the beginnings of my writings with someone who in turn shared it with her women's group at church. They wanted to turn it into a bible study and they were anxious to hear the rest of the story. My friend suggested a book/workbook/workshop/speaking engagements. It was then that I knew that subject should probably be my first book.

10. What else about the book or story might pique the reader’s interest? I made it the entire forty days without curling my hair or wearing any make-up! And yes, it was freakin' hard! Other women tell me how impossible this would be for them, so I feel I have accomplished something worthy of writing about.