Archive for September 2011

Churchill & Oreo:Unconditional Love

September 25, 2011

How Could I Not Adopt Her?

Unconditional love—who doesn’t want it? How many have been disappointed because love relationships didn’t prove to be perfect?

When we’re parents and our kids “love us to death” and we feel the same, most of us have suffered through those dreaded words, “I hate you!” Whether the words are spoken, hissed, or yelled, they take our breath away, break our hearts, push us into seeing the inevitable. This child is no longer the helpless, lovable bundle of joy we carried beneath our hearts, walked the floors with at night, nurtured and worried over.

Sometimes I think healthy human relationships don’t lend themselves to unconditional love. But that could be my mood talking at this time.

However, I do think if we’re pet owners, we might get it. Which brings me to my title.

Churchill is a pet character in one of my books. Oreo is one also, but she’s also in my real world.

She’s a ten pound, little ball of black and white fur we adopted seven years ago. Oreo lives up to her name. She’s sweet and good natured. She loves us unconditionally. Really. No strings, no moods, no serious misbehaviors, just tons of personality. A few days ago, she was snuggled up against my hubby’s side while he sat reading. Her little head rested on his thigh. She looked at him with rapt attention and devotion in her brown, amber-flecked, button eyes.

Hubby looked at me and asked, “How does she love me so much? She never wants to be away from me?”

“Except when she never wants to be away from me or Steven,” I answered feeling I felt the same way, but I didn’t want my hubby to get too impressed with himself. (See, there’s that example of imperfect human relationships. And yes, I love the man!)

But my hubby is right. Oreo loves us no matter what we might accidentally do. For example, sometimes my hubby will not see her long tail and steps on it. Or I might firmly say to her “Not yet,” when she wants her dinner, and I’m right in the middle of writing a scene and can’t stop. Well, Oreo just curls back onto my feet and waits until I finish the scene. No, “I hate you” comes my way. Thank goodness.

I Love My Ride

She’s been such an influence on our lives that I put her in one of my novels. Oreo—the pet character—becomes one of the reasons Katy, a grieving widow, finds a way to deal with her new life. Situations like how cute my Oreo is sitting in her little car seat and enjoying a ride, became part of a scene in the book. And like me, when Katy first spied the little black and white fluff ball, she fell in love and adopted it. One of the few times, I was channeling my life experience with a main character in a book.

Just as our pet has become so vital in our lives and loves us unconditionally, so does the fictional Oreo love Katy.

But I confess, before I created the fictional Oreo, I created another fictional pet.

I named this one Churchill. It seemed to fit an Old English Sheepdog. I chose that breed of dog because I’ve always thought they were cute. I researched the breed to discover what traits they were known for. I discovered my choice was spot on for what I wanted of this fictional pet.


This energetic, lovable breed was the perfect pet to provide “unconditional love” to my heroine Gabrielle who’d been devastated by the sadness in her life. Because of her losses, she’s determined never to let herself love anyone or anything again. But Churchill was the first one to start breaking down her barriers. He steals every scene I put him in so I had to be careful about that. Churchill was like an overly energetic, very furry, four-pawed fairy godfather. Gabrielle’s icy reserve never had a chance with that furry male. And he loved her unconditionally.

So readers, what do you think? Is “unconditional love” something we find in real life with pets? Or is it only found in some fiction if we enjoy reading that kind with its satisfying, happy ending?

Is She Or Isn’t She?

September 18, 2011


A September Dawn

I pulled into the driveway and noticed the screen door to the front porch was at an odd angle. Nothing to worry about as the wind had been blowing hard last night. I tried to straighten it but couldn’t.

Darn, I’d have to call a handyman.

Then I opened the screen door and noticed the front interior door was wide open. That really made me mad that the wind had blown that open also. So I walked in the house and checked it out. Had the wind blown out any windows? Well, I’d better check. I walked into the kitchen and noticed immediately the back door was wide open and the TV from the entertainment center in the living room was sitting on the floor in the middle of the kitchen.

So what did I do? Close the back door and head upstairs to check it out. Went through all the rooms up there and checked out the closets. Nothing seemed unusual up there but all the bed linens on the bed were tangled and thrown into a ball.

I closed the windows that were open up there and turned off a few lights.

Very strange.

I checked the time. I was running late for an appointment and thought I should leave, but I hadn’t checked the last entrance to the house which was—you guessed it—the basement.

So down those dark stairs I went and walked around the whole basement to check it out. That entrance was secure—exactly as I left it. So I walked up the stairs, took a look at the TV in the kitchen and muttered that no way would I be able to put it back where it belonged. Too big and heavy.

I relocked all the doors, left the house and headed for my appointment. I called my repairman about the screen door. He’d meet me at the house in an hour and a half. Perfect.

Even better I was only five minutes late for my appointment. As I was giving my apologies for being late and explaining why, the woman across the desk from me stared.

“Are you crazy?” she asked. “Or just too stupid to live?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You interrupted a robbery, woman…” she sputtered. “I can’t believe you didn’t see that right away. You went in the basement???”

“Yeah…” I almost squirmed as what I had done really hit me.

“How could you do that???”

“I didn’t hear the scary music?”

The rest of the day proved very busy. I never got a chance to report the incident to the police until early the next morning. I was told to go to the residence but not go in until the officer arrived. Okay, I could do that. The wait was about two minutes. He checked out the repaired screen door on the porch, examined the outside of the interior door which I then unlocked, and we entered. I took him right to the kitchen to show him the TV on the floor. TV was gone, back door was wide open. The officer pulled his gun and called for backup who arrived within a minute.

Another Dawn on a Chilly September Morning

“Stay right here,” he told me and now their guns drawn they repeated my pattern from the day before—and came up with the same result. However, while I waited for them in the living room, I checked more carefully and discovered other electronics were gone this time.

The moral of this story is this: the next time you watch a scary movie and notice the lovely young lady doing something really stupid, like I did—remember, the only reason you think it’s scary is because of the music!

And now you know just how stupid I can be…

Two Events, Two Photos, One Thought To Ponder

September 11, 2011

Once They Stood Tall

Today we remember all those who died in the terrorist attacks. Those events which occurred on September 11, 2001, changed our lives as citizens of the United States. They changed the lives of families and friends of those who died or were injured in those attacks. They changed the lives of those who worked valiantly to rescue any survivors.

Most of us remember exactly what we were doing that morning—and the following days. I was working on my computer and my headline alert bleeped. I clicked on it and couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Those events have been indelibly transcribed into our memory banks. I remember the horror and fear I had all day as the appalling videos, photos, and reports of events came to us on TV and internet, and for some, phone calls.

Its impact on us is worth remembering. It’s also worth considering of those events’ consequences and how our lives and society have been reshaped since then. Because our world isn’t the same. In many ways it never will be again.

USS Arizona burning 12-7-1941

A similar event happened to my parents’ and grandparents’ generations with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. When I was growing up, adults would often refer to that day. How frightened they were when they first heard the news, and then how determined they became that the US declare war. My grandfather always talked about the calf that was born that morning. I think he named it Pearl.

That attack and the events that followed changed the path of US history for several years to come. It changed our economy. In 1941, news reporting was very different—the timing not so immediate, the photographic documentation slower and not so quickly available. Some Hawaiian residents didn’t know exactly what had happened until several hours later.

The next day President Franklin Roosevelt addressed a Joint Session of Congress, and the US nation sat glued to their radios. He gave his six and a half minute speech asking for a declaration of war. Its famous opening contained the phrase: “a date which will live in infamy.”  Within an hour of that speech, the US officially declared war. A very divided Congress managed to work together to achieve that.

Many years later, my husband and I had an opportunity to visit the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. That place became the first symbol for the reason the US declared war. When we visited the Arizona memorial, I spent quite awhile watching the oil slicks that still bubble up from that sunken ship. While I watched, I thought about my history classes and what happened during that war—the battles, the death tolls, the casualties, the negotiations, the suffering, the major changes in diplomacy, culture, and political alliances, the atomic bombs. For my parents generation, December 7, 1941 always lurked in their memories for what they lost, what they endured, what they gained, what changes came about in their world because of that event. They honored it each year.

The photo of the smoky, fiery mass of Pearl Harbor became a symbol of great sadness, survival, death and determination.

Skeletal Towers 9-11-2001

Fast forward to 2011. We have a photo which symbolizes what happened that day. It’s the tilted, blackened, skeletal remains of the Towers, smoke-shrouded, and with dusky light from the ash floating in the air and obscuring the sun. I’ve seen that photo often in the last few weeks. It hurts my heart every time for it evokes all we’ve lost as a nation. In so many ways our world is in a shambles as we work to find ways to cope with this new post 9/11 world.

We lost too many people that day. We’ve lost too many more in the wars that have followed. Families were fractured that day as a result of those terrorist attacks. Military families face dealing with badly injured returning soldiers. Many military families deal with financial difficulties.

Even worse, today, our citizens are polarized in deep seated ways that seem as divisive as the ones of our Civil War. And our Congress? No congressman yelled out to President Roosevelt during his speech that he lied.

September 11, 2001 is a day we must remember. A powerful photo symbolizes that terrible day which produced a community of spirit and support that ruled during that day and for some time. But we must find it again. Or that photo of the skeletal towers will reflect our country and what we’ve done to ourselves.

Summer’s End

September 4, 2011

Teacher's desk

Tomorrow is Labor Day—the end of summer for most people. If you’re a parent with school age children, many of them are probably already back in school. Once school is back in session, no matter how high the temperature remains, it’s not summer any longer.

Labor Day weekend is a longer weekend for many who take advantage of the extra day for camping, short vacation trips, or just enjoying extra grilling and picnic sessions. Since I live on the shore of Lake Michigan and the weather has been hot and humid all week, the lake has been very busy with sail boats, pleasure boats, speed boats, jet skies, kayaks and canoes. Because we’ve had a warm July and August the water temp is warmer than usual and we even see brave swimmers out there.

But fall is coming. Our nights are getting much cooler. Worse, the days are getting shorter. Since I love fall, I don’t mind this fact at all.

However, all this emphasis on the end of summer sometimes keeps us from remembering why we have this holiday—the purpose for Labor Day as a holiday. It became a federal holiday in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland rushed the legislation through Congress in an effort to ease tensions after a long and nasty strike. The 1890s was the era of great industrialization in the US and with that the rise of unions.  Their goals were to work towards better working conditions and decent wages.

A factory

When I was very young, my father worked in a factory. The conditions were terrible and the pay was very low. There was no union. When my father got sick and was hospitalized, he was fired. That winter was a very difficult winter for my family. After that experience, my dad regained his health and eventually found a different job. It was a union job.

My dad always reminded us on this weekend, that we were mostly celebrating what labor and laborers do for us. Not just here in our city, state, or country, but world-wide. Think of them all and celebrate their sweat, their productivity, their energy to do their jobs.

If you are a laborer, thank you. Tomorrow is your day. I hope you are able to enjoy it. And I leave you with this short video clip of Katy Couric on her views of labor and Labor Day.