Photo Friday, No. 392

Current Photo Friday theme: Still Life

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Dorothy and Bill

For Throwback Thursday: They were married on April 24, 1947. Wish they were here to celebrate.

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Have a monstrously good Earth Day!

Earth Day at The Compound: As I’ve explained many times, I’m no gardener, so the things that thrive at The Compound do so with very little assistance from me. After our crazy weather, we thought we’d lost our bougainvillea. However, it’s started putting off new growth and we did a thorough pruning so it wouldn’t be forced to waste its effort on far-reaching vines and could make an easier comeback. Our azaleas bloomed later than usual but in abundance, so they’re all right. Our lilies took a hard hit from the cold, but Tom always prunes them to the “nubbins,” as my sister might say, and they’re coming back with a vengeance so I’m sure they’ll flower this summer. We lost two or three rosebushes. One loss was particularly sad because I think it was planted by the elderly lady who lived at The Compound for decades before we came along, and my mother always took good care of it. But another rosebush donated by Amy a few years ago is showing off with many new flowers.

There were other plants I’ve been anxious about. My mother’s amaryllis didn’t bloom this year, but it doesn’t always, so I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. Our yellow jasmine bloomed for about ten minutes when it warmed up; then it beat a hasty retreat when we had another cold snap and it never returned.

Today, I received a couple of new friends–they were for my birthday from The Little Bordello in the Woods, a/k/a Marika and Dash. They took quite a journey around the planet over the last month to get here, so I’m sure they’ve been celebrating Earth Day in advance. I posed them in The Compound’s newly blooming star (or Confederate) jasmine. Tom had a sneaking suspicion during the winter that a rat was making his home in those thick vines–Pixie often thought the same. But I saw no sign of anything rodentlike, and if I had, Toralei, Daughter of the Werecat, and Elissabat, daughter of a vampire, would have been more than capable of dealing with him.

I’ve always wanted a Monster High Toralei doll and could never find one. And the other day, I pointed out Elissabat to Tom at Target and said that even though I loved her, she wasn’t in my budget. Thank you, Marika and Dash, for being the Birthday Earth Day Elves who gave me what you didn’t even realize I wanted!

Happy Earth Day to all!

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I think it’s something I learned from my parents. Maybe my father did it in the Army–I never talked to him much about his life as a soldier who was responsible for training recruits–but I saw with my own eyes how he did it later with students. He looked with eyes that saw what was there, but he also sized up what could be: possibility. I don’t remember ever hearing him say even once that a kid was hopeless or beyond help or had nothing to make him or her special. Every student had potential.

I saw my mother do it with houses. She could see with a critical eye the flaws in construction or condition, but she also saw how she could “fix it up.” Every house in every town, no matter how humble or how riddled with challenges, had the potential to be home with her care and effort.

When Tom and I saw the house we now live in–the first house we bought and quite frankly, the first house I looked at from a list that Tom had put together with a realtor–the mess the tenant had made didn’t faze me. I was assessing the ceilings, the hardwoods, the built-ins, the original floor tile in the bathroom. Another prospective buyer walked in while we were in the house, took one look at the living room packed full of the renter’s furniture and glassware and clothes, turned on his heel, and walked out. In that moment, I knew I could see what he didn’t: possibility.

I think this is what people in rescue do with animals. Everybody loves a cute, healthy puppy. People’s hearts melt over playful kitties full of mischief. Rescue people see the other side: the dogs and cats with no sparkle in their eyes because life hasn’t done right by them. The timid ones who’ve lived on the streets, who’ve been neglected and abused. The sick ones who’ve been deemed too much trouble, too expensive to treat. Because such a rescuer saw possibility more than fifteen years ago with Margot, a dog the shelter was about to euthanize, our family has known the quirkiest and most complex of dogs and enjoyed her and relished even her moodiest days and her very often foul breath. She has loved us and made us laugh, and we are always so happy that she chose us and we chose her thanks to her rescuers.

Tim and I often visit vets or boarding facilities to take photos of dogs RPM has taken into their program, either because their affiliates in Colorado have asked that the dogs be pulled for later transport, or because BARC and RPM together know the dogs will be adoptable. We did that today for a few dogs, including Cash.

I don’t know what breed Cash is. I don’t know his story. I don’t even know his age. But I know he’s a puppy who a lot of people wouldn’t look twice at because he has a (treatable) skin condition. He’s not pretty and fluffy. He didn’t show us a lot of personality. The noises I make to get dogs to look at the camera and perk up their ears had no effect on him. People haven’t done much yet to impress Cash, so he had no reason to impress us. I took a few photos, but they weren’t showing Cash.

Then Tim picked him up and held him close. Tim didn’t care if his skin didn’t look great or if Cash wasn’t interested in revealing the puppy within. He just loved him and talked to him and made him know he’s special. Then he put him on a stool, and what you can see if you look carefully at this picture is something I didn’t even know happened because I was too busy focusing on Cash’s face. You can see a tail wagging. Because in those few minutes, a rescuer made Cash feel special. And over the next few days, so will vets, and vet techs, transporters, and maybe a temporary foster. They’ll all let him know he’s a dog of great possibility. One day his hair will grow back. His eyes will sparkle. His tail will wag, he will romp, he will love a family and be loved in return. He’ll probably forget the bad days.

But I will never forget him.

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A dandelion by any other name…

I like dandelions–as I like anything that doesn’t require care and feeding and watering to thrive, because I’m not good with the gardening thing. I’m sure in my photo archives, I have lots of pictures of dandelion flower heads, as well as dandelion seed heads like these that I spotted on a family vacation in 2010.

A fun fact about dandelions: some of the species produce seeds without pollination, resulting in offspring that are genetically identical to the parent plant.

That little factoid interested me because of Tony Calvert’s use of the humble wildflower in his story “Dandelions.” Jim–or Jimmy, as his mother still calls him–is a romance writer who’s returned to his small hometown to be company for and “look after” his mother and help her with her bed and breakfast after his father dies. But as readers, we begin to wonder who’s looking after whom, as unbeknownst to Jim, Mama is setting him up for a bit of matchmaking with someone she thinks is the perfect eligible bachelor. Here they are at breakfast on the fateful day that she sets her plan in motion.

Mom believed in a big breakfast, at least for other people. She’d made me a mess of SOS, and no one appreciated chipped beef and gravy over toast like me. Mom picked at her muffin while I ate.

“We have a lot to do today. It’s the first time we’ll have guests since your father passed…. All three couples are newlyweds. That’s so exciting!”

I kept eating.

“Jimmy, don’t roll your eyes at me.”

I wasn’t aware that I had.

“Mom, most people call me Jim now, because you know, I’m a man, not a twelve-year-old.”

“If there’s one thing I never understood, it’s why you have such a disdain for love.”

“What? I don’t have a disdain for love. I write about love. I’m all about love! I am love!”

She put her cup down. “No, Avalon Dupre is all about love. Jimmy Hutton is scared of it. I have to tell you: Avalon Dupre is the most ridiculous name. Where did you get that?”

“Lots of people like Avalon Dupre.” It was true. I wasn’t a best seller, but I made a pretty decent living from writing historicals, or hystericals as [my brother] Tom called them.

“And why do you refer to her like she’s real?” She pursed her lips the way she always did when she thought she was making a good point. “You’re Avalon Dupre. Have you ever wondered why you write all those dramatic love stories?”

“I wouldn’t call them dramatic.”

“Anything that features pirates is dramatic.”

“One pirate. I’ve only done the pirate thing once.”

“What’s the one you’re writing now?”

“It’s titled Under the Gypsy Moon.”

“You don’t think pirates and gypsies are just a tinge dramatic?”

“Mom…” I really didn’t want to explain my writing to her, especially at breakfast after I’d been awakened by a vacuum cleaner.

“I’m just saying. I think you write these sweeping love stories because that’s what you’re looking for. You and your sister Valerie have always had these grand expectations. That’s why she’s been married three times and you’ve never made it down the aisle once.”

“Or maybe because it isn’t legal.”

“Love can be a very quiet thing.”

I knew she was thinking of Dad. I considered her judgment of my sister and me. It might be true that Valerie was looking for the dramatic; certainly she’d married some swindling jackasses who were missing a few teeth. But I wrote about a betrayed, justice-seeking pirate with a heart of gold in The Scoundrel Takes a Mistress, and all I’d ever wanted was a love story like my parents’.

Frank and Lilah were introduced on a blind date arranged by friends who thought they’d complement each other. Frank Hutton was reserved and quiet, and Lilah Lynn Lyons was a force of nature, free spirited and wild. The night ended when my mother danced in the fountain in the center of town during a rainstorm. Frank fell in love. They were married for almost fifty years, and they never stopped dating. When a kid grew up bearing witness to the world’s greatest romance, it was hard not to want the same thing.

Lilah swooped in and took my plate. “Let’s go. How many times do I need to tell you we have lots to do?”

You can read the rest of “Dandelions” and meet Jim’s potential Mr. Right in Best Gay Romance 2014, on sale now in trade paperback and ebook format.

Excerpt reprinted with permission from Cleis Press. All rights reserved

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Button Sunday

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!

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A couple of weeks ago in a Button Sunday post, I shared a photo of an RPM dog named Bango and explained how that name came from my father’s childhood dog.

On the most recent Rescued Pets Movement transport, Bango headed for Colorado, where if I’m not mistaken, he already has an adopter waiting for him.

April 18 is the anniversary of my father’s death. I always spend time on that date thinking about him and about my brother and sister. And I like it that another dog who went on the same transport as Bango is named William–because that was my father’s name.

Wishing you a loving home, too, sweet William.

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Photo Friday, No. 391

Current Photo Friday theme: Textures

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Rock the Drop!

Had so much fun dropping these today, and kudos to the manager of the Starbucks where I left the books across from an area high school. He was all for promoting reading and literacy.

You can read more about Rock the Drop here.

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Preparing for tomorrow

Tomorrow will be the seventh annual Readergirlz Operation Teen Book Drop. Anyone who wants to can participate in promoting teen/young adult literature and literacy.

I did this in 2012 and 2013, and can’t wait to do it again tomorrow. In fact, Murder By The Book is holding Jeffrey Ricker’s new novel The Unwanted for me, so while I’m there, I can get a recommendation on other good young adult books to buy for Rock the Drop.

Click the Readergirlz link for more details. If you participate, be sure to share it on social media, especially if you take a photo of your contribution(s) out in the wild.

It always makes me happy to see a young person reading, and it’s not hyperbole when I say that I believe reading can save lives.

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