Jul 012019

“Elvis has left the building.”

I was never a screaming fangirl who needed to hear those words over a PA system to know the party was over. The whole Elvis phenomenon was wasted on me for many years after his passing. Only then could I finally hear and appreciate his music without anyone trying to convince me of anything about it. But, despite his monumental talent, I’ll always remember Elvis in quite a different form.

There’s a favorite bit of family lore that focuses on a multi-generational fear of snakes. Back when Elvis was King and I was a small child, my Dad worked as a sales manager for a land company. A big project in North Carolina brought many fellow northerners to the salesforce and Dad spent a great deal of staff training time drilling about precisely what to do if they encountered a snake while showing land to prospective customers. Over and over. “No matter what, stay calm. Turn and walk in the other direction. Don’t even mention it,” he instructed.

What I didn't realize is that his aversion to snakes, if not entirely genetic, it sure does run in the family. Click To Tweet

It seemed to be a sound policy. After all, there was no point in freaking people out unnecessarily, was there? It made loads of common sense until the day Dad was walking the land, heard the grass rustle, looked down, and shrieked, “SNAKE!” at the top of his lungs as his six-foot self hurried to the relative safety of the road.

My Dad tends to be a larger-than-life figure, so I’ve always enjoyed teasing him with this story: it brings him down to earth with the rest of us. What I didn’t realize is that his aversion to snakes, if not entirely genetic, sure does run in the family. Fortunately, my interactions with the creepy crawlies have been limited by Favorite Husband who almost always runs interference for me. Almost always. Almost.

He's a southern gent; there's a lot about him that feels like a drawl. Click To Tweet

“Excitement” is not a word that should come to anyone’s mind about anything in Florida during the month of July. It’s just too damned hot. Everything unwinds slowly, with most voluntary activity taking place either very early in the morning or late at night. Life takes place in the dark and, generally speaking, it’s not a terrible time of year for my husband to travel to his annual retreat. Life gets very lazy here.

It’s odd that our dog, Alex, should work his way into this story — he doesn’t waste a lot of motion even when the weather is cool. A nearly-albino boxer, he’s deaf, an attribute that serves to enhance his extreme aptitude for lengthy naps. He’s a southern gent; there’s a lot about him that feels like a drawl. I love it.

Still, it was July. I didn’t think much of his frequent trips to the laundry room. The floor is usually a little cooler there.

As I walked in to start a load of wash, I heard a loud thump. Turning towards the sound, I was startled by a very odd motion. When I recognized the flipping creature as a snake, the scream I let out rivaled my Dad’s. It didn’t phase Alex a bit.

Alex’s deafness makes him a keen observer of his surroundings, and he is especially fascinated by snakes: this was not our first encounter. My best guess is that he frightened the thing enough that it sought refuge atop of my ironing board. My subsequent shriek scared it to safety behind the dryer. I grabbed the dog, shut the laundry room door, and started to pace. My hands were sweatier than the rest of me. Excitement. July. I was not going to be able to sleep with a snake in the house, but I had no idea how to get rid of it.

I was not going to be able to sleep with a snake in the house, but I had no idea how to get rid of it. Click To Tweet

When I took a break from hyperventilating, I remembered that one of my closest friends — the one who names every animal that has ever hopped, stepped, or slithered through her yard — was married to a former park ranger. I called. They came. I love my friends.

Of course, there was no sign of the snake. The pair went back home, and the full cycle repeated itself. This time, before leaving, my naturalist friend said, “Keep your phone in your hand. The next time you see the snake, keep your eyes on him while you call me.”

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the snake turned up again. I followed instructions. My stomach churned. Although they live within a couple of miles, I waited forever for rescue to arrive.

Armed with heavy gloves and a large, covered bucket, he cornered the thing. Sure enough, as he moved it into the bucket, the damned snake managed to bite him.

A bite from a black racer snake is far more annoying than dangerous. A little hot soapy water and a plastic bandage did the trick. With my sincere appreciation, the rescuer and his charge headed to another home in another neighborhood where his wife would gift it with a name. And, yes, as you have probably guessed: when my husband called home that evening, I was able to let him know what happened.

“Elvis has left the building.”

Apr 302019

With the ability to stream TV classics from almost any era, I’m not dating myself too much when I think about Ally McBeal’s quirky characters and their various adventures with theme songs. If I’m remembering correctly, there was a litigator who wasn’t ready for court until he heard bells… and someone who needed the attitude adjustment that came from channeling his inner Barry White. I did some work with Mark Victor Hansen, one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul guys and saw him come to the front of the room to either You’re Simply the Best or Soul Man.

So I recently asked a bunch of Facebook followers what sort of theme song they might recommend for a person who had a goal in mind but needed a little extra support in the “gigantic butterflies in the stomach” department. They’re some interesting folks and came up with some pretty good additions to a playlist. Or, maybe an entire playlist. You be the judge. And I’ve included a crazy number of links in this post; if you can stand all the YouTube ads, you can hear each of the songs.

What's YOUR theme song? Click To Tweet

Whenever I post about developing confidence or taking motivation to a higher level, I’m not surprised when Avon Superstar (also known as Captain Platinum) Lisa Wilber jumps in first. She gave us Reba’s  I’m Gonna Take That Mountain.

Some of the contributors offered deeply spiritual music: Thirty-one Gifts consultant Patricia Darley chose Made to Thrive.  Roslyn Evans — the co-owner and designer of exquisite jewelry at Earth and Moon Design — is inspired by This Little Light of Mine while another artist, Heather Maria, added Walk on Water.   Rachel Keiffer, the HealthNut Girl introduced some of us to a Hebrew song called the Song of Ascents.

Some of the women turned to their spiritual sides for musical inspiration. Click To Tweet

Intuitive healer and coach Robin Ann Reid offered This is Me.  and Suzie Cheel from down under tossed Happy, as well as Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s beautiful version of Over the Rainbow, into the mix.

And Lore Raymond from Florida’s gulf side led the charge for Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman.  I don’t know about you, but “you can bend but never break me, ’cause it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal” rings true for so many of the important women in my life. And Vatsala Shukla reminded us of another “you’ve got this” anthem: such Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.

You can bend but never break me... Click To Tweet

When it came time to pick up the tempo, Colleen added Sly and the Family Stone with You Can Make It If You Try while Michelle dished up a little Uptown Funk.   Author Beverly Golden joined Etta James to advise:  Trust Yourself.  And we can always count on Barb Parcells to bring us classics such as You’ll Never Walk Alone.  I hope you like Josh Groban’s version as much as I do.

Many of these women have wonderful projects going; I’ve linked to their sites or Facebook pages so you can get to know them if you choose. In the meantime, I’m off to iTunes to buy a couple of these songs for one of my “you go, girl” lists!


Oct 172018

Finding myself with a persistent earworm, I’m surprised that it’s not a popular song or something from a musical or movie soundtrack. I’ve never before experienced one involving red birds although, when my son was very small there was a certain purple dinosaur and that famous group known as The Muppets. But that was some time ago. This was a very odd earworm, and, at the risk of passing it along, I’ll bet that it’s somewhere in the dark recesses of your memory, as well.

Yes, for most of yesterday, I was treated to a continuous loop of a song called “Playmate,” that super sweet little ditty many of us learned from grandmothers and great aunties. A quick online search tells me that it is now taught in pre-schools and daycare centers. Still — I hadn’t heard it for a decade or four. I’m familiar with the concept of the sense of smell evoking strong memories but still, I wonder what dredges such things from the depth of memory? This time I have some clues.

Finding myself with a persistent earworm, I'm surprised that it's not a popular song or something from a musical or movie soundtrack. Click To Tweet

As we’ve learned more and more about growing things in Florida, our backyard has become a haven for birds. Especially for cardinals. (You might remember my awe at the birds’ nest just outside the laundry room window? It belonged to a pair of cardinals.) Maybe it’s the citrus trees or perhaps my husband’s multiple feeders, but the red birds love it here, all year long. Yesterday was no exception.

We had acquired a sweet almond and noticed it was a little dry. So, after planting each of the small shrubs in a watery hole, I set up a sprinkler to add a bit more moisture. Our new plants may have appreciated their gentle shower but the cardinals seemed ecstatic, not only showering but appearing to play in the sprinkler’s misty stream. And each time I went outside to turn off the water, the birds were there: still hopping and perching and almost rolling around in the puddles. Their joy was contagious. While I marveled at their playfulness, that silly little song crept into my head. Over and over. “Playmate, come out and play with me…” Granted, they were “climbing” a lemon tree and “sliding” down a wheelbarrow rather than the apple tree and the rain barrel in the song. It still but it seemed to fit. And came into my head to dissuade me every time I went out to close the faucet.

The cardinals seemed ecstatic, not only showering but appearing to play in the sprinkler's misty stream. Click To Tweet

The cardinal garden-to-playground-takeover set me to reading a bit about my brilliant, colorful friends.

For the most part, cardinals are monogamous — always a plus in my book. (Don’t ask.) And while the female is responsible for nest-building and incubation, the male not only feeds her at the nest but joins her in feeding the hatchlings as well.

Then, in true internet fashion, I read that they signify good luck, helpfulness, passionate energy, family, good health, an excellent work-play balance. They also signal us that the best is yet to come. Wow. That’s a lot of important messaging for a little bird to carry around.

They signal us that the best is yet to come. Click To Tweet

But I repeatedly read that those beautiful red birds (and their spectacular chestnut brown females) represent loved ones who have passed. They are said to show up both in celebration and despair to remind us that those powerful spirits live with us still. My heart is full as I look back at sprinkler-jumping and clap-singing Playmate with my great aunt and, sometimes her sister, my grandma. The same grandma who instilled the love of language that is with me every day.

The almonds seem to have settled — healthy and happy — in their holes, needing little additional attention. But, even as I write this, the red birds have perched on a branch outside the nearest window.

Today is supposed to be another hot one. I’ll be turning on the sprinkler for them soon.


Apr 182018

A good friend and I recently swapped some writing services, including reviewing one another’s bios for a new project. I was pleasantly surprised when she picked up on something I’ve been doing for fun: over on Instagram, I’ve been including lots of dog pictures and have introduced the hashtag #AdviceFromAlex something you may have also seen on my Facebook Author Page. 

You can follow me in either of those places if you like. I love seeing friends in multiple locations around the internet.

Alex is a deaf dog who came to us about five years ago. And, while he’s taught me a lot that has made me a better dog handler, I really enjoy the rest of his lessons. I hope you do, too.

Always be as open as possible. Look around. Be curious. People can’t know you if you’re shut down, secretive or seem sneaky. Openness is a form of honesty — what you see is what you get. Besides, sometimes the humans get confused and think you’re asking for a cookie! That often works out well.


Openness is a form of honesty -- what you see is what you get. #advicefromalex Click To Tweet

By the way, if you’re confused by hashtags please ask about them in the comments. Many of the folks who follow my blog understand them and explain them very well. Or you can start with this post called Social Media with FLAIR.


Help out around the house you live in — laundry is a good place to start. And sometimes you get to try on clothes that belong to other people. (Oh wait. You probably think I’m not a people. We debate about that around here sometimes.) When helping with laundry I recommend sticking with the air dry stuff already on hangers:  the humans can get kinda grumpy when I help dry their black clothes or use the folded stuff as a pillow.

Don’t miss the details. I don’t hear so I use my eyes a lot. I notice things others don’t necessarily see. I was excited when I first met my furever family: they noticed my heart-shaped nose right away. Of course, if you ask their obedience instructor, I apparently get excited about everything. What’s wrong with enthusiasm?

What's wrong with enthusiasm? Click To Tweet

Paying attention can lead to lots of great photo-bombing opportunities. And helping your friends. On this day, our friend Nigel was helping Mom by taking a new author photo for her last book. She is kind of shy so I thought a picture of both of us would be better. They didn’t use it but I still like the picture.

And, being naturally photogenic can lead to modeling opportunities. Here’s one of the ads I did for one of Mom’s books. I wanted to make sure people whose brains are kicking their butts know that she had made something to help them. She likes helping people.


Have you ever learned anything from a dog? Do you like Alex’s advice? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments — someone here will read them to him.


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