Friday, February 29, 2008

Tingling with anticipation

The numbers on my cell phone keypad are beginning to wear from excessive pounding. Post-it notes flood from my purse and are stuck haphazardly on everything from pieces of paper to computer monitors. I've moved my hair appointment and called every vet and expert in town. Tonight, I'll attack the house in a cleaning frenzy. I'll scrub and polish and vacuum and banish every speck of dirt. I'll blow off the lingerie party, ensuring our home is perfect.

Then, I'll lay down to sleep. My toes will be tingling and happiness will be shooting through my veins. My muscles will tense, like right before you step out onto the dance floor or down the aisle of your wedding. My chest will be tight and it will be hard to breathe. I'll be smiling, trying desperately not to squeal out loud with excitement. My eyes will be closed, but my mind will be racing. My arms will be black and blue from pinching myself, to see if maybe I really am dreaming.

And after a few winks of sleep, nothing serious, I'll rise. I'll go through the motions: eating breakfast, working out, taking a bath. Really, my mind can only think of one thing. As I scramble my morning eggs, I'll wonder if tomorrow I'll have two sets of little paws dancing around me. I wonder how I'll dance around the house with two tiny creatures scurrying around my feet. I wonder if tiny pink tongues will lick my nose while I'm doing leg lifts. I wonder what it will be like to have two tiny white bodies curled in my lap, listening to them sigh in their sleep as I write story after story inspired by them.

It could be as soon as tomorrow. Tomorrow, I could possibly have the two things I've been dreaming about for five years. The Pond will have two new members, the Land of the Flowered Bed will have entire new adventures.

As my feet dance with anxiety under my chair, I think about how much things will change. I'm not daft. I know that I'll spend my nights comforting little cries, letting them out, taking them on walks. Our clean floors will have to be mopped more from muddy little foot prints, our couches vacuumed for hair. There will be accidents, disasters and utter mistakes.

But my feet are still dancing, and my heart is still pounding. For as soon as tomorrow afternoon, they might be mine. I might have their warm breath on my cheek, their tiny tails curled around my arm.

But for now, I'm still dreaming. And tingling with anticipation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The night the router lights went out

The animals in the Land of the Flowered Bed hid under the bed, watching the Ben's feet scurrying around the bedroom. The flying pigs were peeking in through the windows, watching from outside and the ducks in the Spa were quiet for once, listening to the conversation.

"Nope, it's still out in here!" the Blonde Duck said.

"Now my Mac is out too!" Ben said. "Let me go check the router. I'm going to restart it." The animals watched both pairs of feet hurry out the bedroom door.

"What's a router?" Pumble whispered, his interest peaked. "Is it food?"

"You idiot," Cookies scoffed. He realized he didn't know what a router was either and fell silent.

"It must have something to do with computers," Hairy said logically. "They were carrying their laptops around." The seals clapped their fins silently. They liked the computers. The favorite part of their day was looking at pictures of seals online. They liked to pretend they were in Antarctica.

The feet returned, and the animals fell silent. "I'm going to go check the router next door," Ben said. "I think that must be what the problem is. It's knocked our Internet out, I'm sure of it. That's why our router isn't working."

"I'll come with you," the Blonde Duck said. The animals watched them walk out the bedroom again. They heard the front door open and shut. Cautious, they glanced around and crawled out from under the bed.

"I hope they get the Internet fixed," Pumble grumbled. "I had to post the new video of my cooking show."

"I had to order my new texts for my Russian literature course," Cookies said in a haughty tone. "That's much more important than your show. It's not even real anyway."

Pumble narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth. Hairy interrupted before they could start fighting again.

"Let's go see if we can help them!" Hairy said brightly, stepping between Cookies and Pumble. "Then the Internet will be fixed faster and you can each do what you want." The seals clapped their fins together in approval as Cookies and Pumble contemplated the idea. The ducks in the Spa, who were shamelessly eavesdropping, broke into a round of applause.

"Fix the Internet!" the first duck cheered. "Fabulous idea!"

"What a wonderful thought," the second duck cheered. "I can check my e-mail!"

"It would really be quite kind of you," the third duck said.

Pumble puffed out his chest. "That settles it then," he said, nodding his head. "We'll save the Internet!"

"And how do you propose we do that?" Cookies asked sarcastically.

"Well, if it keeps going out, maybe that means it's going to sleep," Hairy said slowly, piecing the information together as he spoke. "If it's sleeping, that means it's sick."

The seals interrupted with a burst of excited chattering.

"That's exactly what I was thinking!" Hairy smiled. "We'll bring some cough syrup, aspirin and medicine for a stuffy nose."

"Let's bring some Tums, too!" Pumble cried, rubbing his own large stomach. "Maybe the router has heartburn!" The animals loaded a small bag with all the bottles and creams they could find in the Spa. As the ducks cheered them on, they dragged the bag down the hallway.

"We have to hurry," Pumble panted, jerking the bag behind him. Sweat poured down his yellow face. "We don't have much time."

"How are we going to administer the medicine?" Cookies asked, trotting behind him. "Do you even know where the router is?"

"I think it's in this closet," Hairy said, pointing to the hallway closet. " That's what Ben kept saying, anyway. Something about drilling more wires or something."

The animals hurried toward the closet. Pumble shuffled along, dragging the bag behind him. Cookies waddled along behind him, trying to look as dignified as an owl could while walking. Hairy and the seals walked a few feet behind the bag, picking up whatever medicine fell out. Soon, Hairy's small arms were stuffed and the seals could barely move along the carpet without knocking five or six bottles off their backs.

Finally, they made it to the closet. They dumped the medicine back into Pumble's bag and looked up. The router was located several feet in the air on a shelf at the top of the closet. All they could see were wires curling around the shelf.

"There!" Hairy shouted in a triumphant voice. "See that white box! That's the router!"

Pumble gasped. "There's no lights on there! Are you sure it's not dead?"

"Is it supposed to have lights?" Cookies asked.

"I'm not sure," Pumble answered, chewing on his lip.

Hairy tapped his chin and beat his foot against the floor as he studied the shelf. He snapped his fingers and his furry lips spread in a broad grin.

"I've got it!" he cried. The seals chattered happily around his feet. "Cookies, you can fly up there and give the router it's medicine!"

"Excuse me?" Cookie did not looked pleased. He crossed his wings over his chest and stuck his beak in the air.

"Well, Pumble can't do it because he just had surgery," Cookies wheedled. Pumble pouted and showed Cookies the long scar down his back. "Plus, he can't fly as high as you."

"That's because he's fat," Cookies pointed out. "Forget flying high, it's a miracle he can fly at all."

"Shut up," Pumble snarled. "I can't help it if I'm built big for a bee!"

"Try ginoumous."

"Listen!" Hairy shoved himself between Cookies and Pumble. "You two have got to stop arguing. We don't have much time. If you ever want to check your e-mail again, we've got to do this now. Pumble, hand Cookies the cough syrup. Cookies, fly up to the shelf and give the router some cough syrup. Then fly back down and Pumble will hand you some more medicine. When we've used everything in the bag, we'll see if it worked."

"Ok," Pumble grumbled.

"Fine," Cookies huffed.

Pumble handed Cookies the cough syrup. Clutching it in his beak, Cookies carefully flew up to the shelf. He perched on the edge and delicately screwed off the cap with his beak, using his wings to drizzle it on the router. He flew back down and returned with aspirin, which he sprinkled on top of the router. After a few tums, some Sudafed tablets and a smear of Vicks, Hairy was convinced the router would get well. The seals cheered and clapped their fins together with glee.

"Hurry!" he cried, flinging the bag under the coffee table. "Run! They'll be back any minute!" The animals sprinted across the living room, careened down the hallway and leaped under the bed. Just as they slid under the bed frame, they heard the front door open.

"Amazing!" they heard Ben cry. "The Internet is working again!"

"Hooray!" the animals cheered in unison. "We did it!" Hairy cried, hugging Pumble and then Cookies. The seals flipped under the bed and chattered happily. They were so excited, they forgot to be quiet.

"Watch out!" the first duck in the Spa warned. "They're coming!"

"Shut up!" the second duck warned. "They'll hear you!"

"Thanks for fixing it," the third duck whispered. The animals watched as Ben's feet appeared in front of the bed, pacing back and forth across the room.

"Yea, it fixed just like magic," he said to the person on the phone. "It's amazing. I can't figure it out."

The animals smiled to themselves.

"The one thing that baffles me," Ben continued, "is how the cough syrup and Tylenol got on there. And the tums! Tums on a router!"

The animals stifled a giggle.

Monday, February 25, 2008

If I was a dog....

The other day at work, Libby found this picture. She squealed, "This is you!"

I replied, "No, that's not me. That's a dog."

"Nooooo," Libby groaned, acting as if I was a moron. "That would be you if you were a dog! Look at that smile! Those ears! That goofy expression!"

I was amused and somewhat offended. "I want to be a chihuahua..."

"Nope." Libby had already decided my doggie personality fate and was now writing a caption to go along with my picture. She pasted the picture and caption on my computer and cackled. "This is you! This is soooo you!"

The caption read: "I just had a brilliant idea! Let's bake a pie! I want to dance! Is that peanut butter? Let's go on a walk! I'm sooo bored! That guy's a moron! I had another brilliant idea!"

I should have been offended, but I was laughing too hard. Then I got to thinking, if I was a dog....

If I was a dog, I'd spend my afternoons lying in the sunshine. I'd let the grass tickle my belly and butterflies land on my nose.

If I was a dog, I would spend hours curled up in a lap being petted. If the person dared to stop petting me, I'd crack my eyes open, give them the most pathetic look possible and smile when they started petting me again.

If I was a dog, I would frolic through flowers, splash in puddles and run on cement.

If I was a dog, I would go on several walks. I would stick my nose in sprinklers, investigate gardens and snarl at rude dogs who barked at me.

If I was a dog, I would wear pink fuzzy sweaters without complaint.

If I was a dog, I would hide from Charlie the Dog because he would be much bigger than me.

If I was a dog, I would find out what Ace is really thinking.

If I was a dog, I would teach aerobic classes for the Babies.

If I was a dog, I would make millions being the first doggie author to write books for dogs.

If I was a dog, I would eat lots of pie. Calories don't matter when you're a dog.

If I was a dog, I'd wear cute little bows on my ears.

If I was a dog, I'd eat barbeque, hamburgers, Mexican food, macaroni and cheese, pie and cookies everyday. Then I'd throw it all up and eat grass.

If I was a dog, I would get a cocker spaniel for a friend. I've always wanted a cocker spaniel and Ben says I can't have one because they pee on the floor. If I wasn't a dog, I wouldn't be concerned about the floor so it's all ok.

If I was a dog, I'd find a witch to turn Ben and Libby into dogs too so I could have company. Ben would be a chihuahua, Libby would be a shih-tzu.

If I was a dog, I'd go to Austin and let my dad feed me the same cookies he feeds the Babies.

If I was a dog, I'd take a great big glob of peanut butter and let it dance on my tongue.

If I was a dog, I would perfect the art of stealing off people's plates. And not feeling guilty at all.

If I was a dog, I would eat a worm, just for curiosity's sake.

Ok, I probably wouldn't eat a worm.

Well, I might.

If I was a dog, I would make friends with butterflies and ladybugs and hope word got around to the fleas and ticks so they wouldn't disturb me.

If I was a dog, I would howl as I danced to music. I bet I could dance even better with four legs.

If I was a dog, I would call everyone I didn't like morons and they would never know about it.

If I was a dog, I would create a Braille-like system to write my stories with my paws. Or bark-recognition software.

If I was a dog, I would make pies for dogs. Really cute ones.

If I was a dog, I would ban all cats from the city.

If I was a dog, I would go visit the goats and the donkeys behind our house.

And if I was a dog, I'd probably look just like the one Libby found.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The GLUG interviews The Blond Duck's Dad

Dear Invisible Friends,

The GLUG (Ginormous Lime Green Unusual Gnat) has been twitching and whining for me to let him post another interview on my blog. He says since I never gave him the promised TV show in Oprah's time slot, I owe him.

Well, I don't think I owe him anything, but I am awfully tired of listening to him howl and bellow attached to my windshield wipers as I drive to and from work every day. Therefore, indulge the GLUG as he interviews my Dad. It was not my idea that he interview my father. I tried to convince the GLUG that my father was the last person he would want to interview. He should interview Ben, I suggested, my mother or Ace the Dog. But my father would give him nothing. My father is an engineer that only gets excited by bad puns or new developments in his field. He doesn't like interviews, isn't fond of insects and despises bellowing. Anyone who knows my father knows that he is extremely reticent.

The GLUG didn't listen. He insisted on an interview and demanded I post it immediately. For privacy reasons, my father will be called Dad and not his real name.

Enjoy ( if you can).

The Blonde Duck

The GLUG Interviews The Blond Duck's Dad
The GLUG: (bellowing) HELLLOOOOOOO!!! Welcome to my new fabulous show, GLUG! Today my subject is Dad. Hello Dad!
Dad: Hello.
The GLUG: Do you think I'm cute?
Dad: (silence)
The GLUG: (yelling louder) Are you deaf? I asked if you think I'm cute!
Dad: I heard you.
The GLUG: (wounded) Then why won't you tell me I'm cute? Do you not think I'm cute? How can you not think I'm cute? I am the cutest Ginourmous Lime Green Unusual Gnat ever! In fact, I'm the only Ginourmous Lime Green Unusual Gnat! (sticks his tiny green face in Dad's, antennae twitching wildly.)
Dad: (nods)
The GLUG: (sighs) So tell me about yourself Dad. What do you like best about the Blonde Duck?
Dad: (in quiet, measured tones) The fact I no longer have to fund her shopping trips.
The GLUG: (sighing heavily) That's boring. What's your favorite food?
Dad: Chicken fried steak.
The GLUG: (perking up slightly) Do you like mashed potatoes?
Dad: Yes.
The GLUG: Do you like pecan pie?
Dad: Yes.
The GLUG (growing excited): Do you like peanut butter?
Dad: No.
The GLUG (shrieks): How can you not like peanut butter? Everyone likes peanut butter!
Dad: (raises eyebrow)
The GLUG: Do you think I'm cute?
Dad: (repeats raising of eyebrow)
The GLUG: Can I drive your car?
Dad: No.
The GLUG: Can I come to your house?
Dad: No.
The GLUG: Will you take me to Alaska? I've never been there.
Dad: No.
The GLUG (frustrated): Do you ever talk?
Dad: Yes.
The GLUG: Do you ever say more than one word?
Dad: Yes, often.
The GLUG (completely fed up): I'm going to go bother Ben! He would be a much better interview. Let's call him right now like Ellen calls people on her show. I love Ellen! Do you like Ellen? (dialing phone number)
Dad: No
The GLUG: Do you like Oprah? I love Oprah. (Audience can hear phone ringing).
Dad: No.
(phone picks up) Ben: Hello?
Ben: Oh God. How did you get my number?
The GLUG (ignoring him): The Blonde Duck's dad won't talk on my show! Will you talk on my show?
Ben: I'm on a show?
The GLUG: You're on TV!
Ben: And the Blonde Duck's Dad is there?
The GLUG (scowling): Yes, but he won't talk. He's boooorrrinnnggggg.
Ben: Hey Blonde Duck's Dad? Did you hear about... (conversation turns to cars. The GLUG's eyes glaze over. Completely bored, he abandons his audience in pursuit of a stray kitten outside the studio.)
The GLUG (chasing stray kitten): That's it for our show today! Stay tuned for next time when we interview someone amusing and fabulous! Hey kitty! Kitty kitty kitty! Do you think I'm cute? Do you like me? Have you ever seen a GLUG before?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You were always on my mind

You were always on my mind.

For years now, I've had puppies on the brain. I have nagged, cajoled, whined, pleaded and pouted for almost three years now. Then, once Ben agreed to get dogs after we had the prerequisite house, steady income and backyard, something stopped me. I couldn't get dogs now.

They would be all alone. They would be sad. They would tear up the house. Ben would freak out over pee on the new(ish) carpet. They'd electrocute themselves on wires. They'd cost us hundreds of dollars in vet bills. They would whine and cry all night and bark all day.

They would snuggle right under my chin. They would treat me to hot puppy breath and lick my nose every hour of the day. They would curl up in my lap, prance across the carpet and frolic through the yard. They could lay in the basket I've been saving for three years, curled up in a soft blanket as I spent the day writing away.

As everyone knows, I love to punish myself. It's my favorite thing to do. I would have been a fabulous Puritan, except for the whole witch-burning thing. So I made rules. We couldn't get a dog until I was published and could work full time from home. If that didn't work, we couldn't get a dog until we had children. It wasn't right to get a dog now, I told everyone. They'd be lonely.
We weren't home enough. It just wasn't right.

Well, almost two years later, I still don't have a book deal. A lot of hope, a lot of interest and a lot of faith I'll succeed someday--but no fat advance and editorial line up with a publishing house. No agent. No deal. And we're still a ways from having babies. Babies are cute and all, but the only thing I want to carry in my arms is fuzzy with a wagging tail. Besides, I reasoned, getting babies and puppies at the same time was a recipe for disaster.

The other night, I was whining to Ben about why I needed puppies. Whether he was fed up to hearing about it or just being logical, I'll never know. He turned to me and said, "Well, why not get him?"

Why not? Well, because....the words died on my lips. All my excuses seemed like...excuses.

"After all," Ben reasoned. "If you want to get two and all the experts say it's all right to leave them home, why not? Like you said, there's no perfect time. Getting a book deal like that's a one in a million shot, regardless of your talent. It's all about the money. Why torture yourself?"

For once in my life, I was speechless. It didn't last long.

After discussing it, we decided to be responsible puppy buyers. We would research and look into getting puppies. There would be no frenzied trips to the pet store or desperate dashes to a backyard breeder.

I don't know when exactly we'll carry home our two squirmy bundles of joy or whether they'll come from Longview or San Antonio. I'm not sure whether I'm ready for the increased cleaning and responsibility that comes along with puppies. I don't know if my father will ever set foot in my house with "rats" running around or if we'll ever go on a vacation because Ben will use three sets of big eyes to guilt me into staying home. (The man is a hermit crab.) I don't know about the vet bills or coming home and finding Ben's favorite shoes destroyed.

But I do know that my life has been free of puppy tails and furry paws for too long.

You were always on my mind.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Surgery in the Land of the Flowered Bed

Several little faces were crowded at the doorway as they watched the proceedings. Struck by an extreme pain in his back, Pumble had gone in for surgery. Ben was the attending surgeon.

"They say he's the best," Hairy whispered, trying to comfort the quivering seals. "I'm sure Pumble will be just fine."

"You know, I bet his seams split because he's so fat," Cookies smirked. "That's what he gets for having an ice cream sundae every night."

The animals looked at him in shock.

"That's unkind!" the first duck cried.

"How rude!" the second duck sniffed.

The third duck could not think of a response at all. His mouth hung open in shock. They all sat in silence for a moment, watching Ben stitch away.

"Did they give him something?" Ladybug asked. She wrung her hands and fretted as she watched Ben slide the needle through Pumble's soft covering. "Anesthesia, anything?"

"They doped him up pretty good," Cookies said. He was cowering in the doorway, still ashamed from his previous comment. "He was snoring earlier."

They watched as Ben handed Pumble over to the nurse for inspection. She turned Pumble over in her hands, carefully examining him for any tears or scrapes.

"Oh no!" she cried. The animals froze in terror. "He has a spot on his leg that needs mending!" she said, handing Pumble back to Ben. The animals quivered with anxiety as Ben began to mend Pumble's leg.

"Emergency surgery!" Ladybug gasped. She slapped her hand to her forehead and fainted. The seals quickly moved out of the way, letting Hairy catch her. Gently lowering her to the floor, he bit his lip. "Do you think she'll be all right?"

"She'll be fine," Cookies said, inspecting his feathers. He was obviously bored. "She's just being dramatic. There's not even any blood." The seals glared at him.

"There, good as new!" Ben said, tying off the end of Pumble's stitches. "He'll be wonderful in an hour or two and able to fly in a few days." He set Pumble carefully on the bed and went to his office, taking the nurse with him. The animals all rushed to Pumble's side. They crowded around him, peering down to watch for the slightest movement. Even Ladybug woke up from her faint and hovered over him.

"Is he asleep?" Hairy asked, lifting one of his arms gently. "He's breathing, but I don't see any movement."

"How could you tell?" Cookies sneered. "His belly is so big you can't see anything else." The animals ignored him. Ladybug clutched his hand as the seals crept up to his face. They were curious to see if Pumble had whiskers. He had never let them close enough to tell. They had whiskers, so why shouldn't he have whiskers? Just as the seals peered closely at Pumble's face, his eyes flew open.

"Excuse me?" he bellowed. "What are you two doing in my face?" The seals barked in an effort to explain, quickly scurrying backwards.

"Oh darling, we're so glad you're all right!" Ladybug exclaimed. "How do you feel?"

"Do you need anything?" Hairy asked, always eager to help. "Are you hungry? Thirsty?"

"He's always hungry," Cookies muttered. The ducks from the Spa waddled forward, eager to investigate.

"Does it hurt?" the first duck asked, thrusting his face in Pumble's view.

"Do you have a scar?" the second duck stuck his bill directly in Pumble's vision.

"The Flying Pigs send their well-wishes that you'll recover soon," the third duck said, politely remaining some distance away.

They all stared at Pumble expectantly.

"I"-- Pumble wheezed, hiding the twinkle in his eye.

"Yes?" Ladybug stepped forward.

"If it's not too much trouble," he croaked, batting his eyelashes demurely. Cookies rolled his eyes.

"Anything for you, old pal," Hairy said, taking his other hand.

"Well, I'd like some biscuits and honey for breakfast," Pumble said, working very hard to appear pale and weak. He fluttered one wing, then drooped from the effort. "And if it's not too much trouble, I'd like some pie right now. A large piece, please, no skimping. With ice cream. And French fries. And a Coke if you don't mind. Perhaps some waffles to go along with it. I saw some in the freezer the other day."

Hairy and Ladybug rushed off to fill his order. The seals hopped along to see if there was any salmon in the freezer. The ducks scurried off to tell the Flying Pigs all the latest gossip. Only Cookies remained. He looked down at Pumble.

"It doesn't hurt at all, does it?"

Pumble's plump cheeks spread out into a wide smile. "I expect it will hurt for a week, at least," he smiled. He rubbed his large belly. "Plenty of time to snack on biscuits and honey."

All flowers, pies and exotic honeys can be sent to Room 1B in the Land of the Flowered Bed Recovery Center. It's directly across from the nightstand and before the closet.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ode to Pie-I-Made-From-Scratch

Ode to Pie-I-Made-From-Scratch

Oh, Pie-I-Made-From-Scratch, how I love thee.
You were a challenge from the start,
As I tried to determine the directions,
But I have defeated you, as you can clearly see.

I dreamed of you, oh pie,
Envisioning your crisp taste all week.
I fantasized about the thick crust, the sugary topping,
Without you I thought I would die.

Off to the store I rushed,
To collect the necessary materials.
I loaded my cart with apple and flour,
and returned all set to begin working.

At first, I was exhilarated.
I'm baking a pie, I cried happily,
A glorious pie!
With great enthusiasm, I began cutting and peeling.

After the second apple I had to peel,
I was no longer amused.
My enthusiasm was fading fast.
The pie was not as easy as it looked.

Still, I persevered,
drooling as I crumbled butter into the brown sugar,
envisioning the finished product,
as I stirred and stirred.

The pastry was made,
The filling was complete.
After a few tedious minutes the topping was done,
It was ready to bake.

I agonized for an hour,
Waiting for the pie to bake.
The ding from the oven 50 minutes later,
Was the sound of my culinary desire.

Finally, the time for desert came.
With a scoop of ice cream
and a quick warming zap,
I knew my world would never be the same.

How glorious was this pie!
How tender, how sweet!
Every bite made me wiggle,
you could tell by my dancing feet.

Before I knew it, the pie-I-made-from-scratch was gone,
All that remained was an empty plate.
Until next time, pie-I-made-from-scratch,
I will see you in my dreams.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Wands, Westrens and the good ol' days

In an earlier post, I discussed how I have a fascination for both fairy tales and tales of the Wild West. On my book shelf, you'll see stories about cowboys taking back towns from evil sheriffs and dozens of books about horses shoved next to The Little Princess and The Frog Prince Continued. An illustration of Sleeping Beauty hangs on my wall next to my pink cowboy hat I wore as a child and my spurs.

I never said I wasn't strange.

However, it's actually not really that strange. During Christmas, Ben and I were visiting his grandfather. He was playing El Dorado on the television, having developed a fevered need to have every John Wayne ever made. After ten minutes, Ben and I were hooked. Not only is John Wayne fascinating to watch, but the Western was funny. It was charming, it was clever and it was articulate. There weren't any bad actors stuttering through lines, raunchy love scenes or crass jokes that made you want to rip your ears off your heads. As I puttered through my routine at the gym, it suddenly came to me.

Fairy tales and Westerns are basically the same thing: a story about a hero struggling to right the wrong in the world and establish peace and happiness. There is always a fair maiden (bar maid, lady, etc.) that either needs to be rescued or aids the hero; a side kick and an evil villain that must be destroyed (greedy businessman, evil queen, etc.) That's why I like two seemingly "different" genres. Literary types are probably smacking their foreheads and screaming "DUH!" at their computer screens, but hear me out.

I know that there is a pattern to stories. Intro, developing conflict, more conflict, climax, falling action. I've got it. However, as the number of people buying books dwindles and movies become about harsh comedy or depressing dramas where everyone dies, maybe there's a reason people aren't interested in stories. Fairy tales and Westerns both show class. It's why I like country music. Same concept. In older movies, not just Westerns, they don't need foul language and skimpily dressed actresses to get their point across. Take It's a Wonderful Life. Cynics go on about it's cheesiness, how it's over rated, how it's a medafore for communism or something. But take a closer look. A hero struggles to right the wrongs in Bedford Falls and defeat the evil Mr. Potter, even when everything goes against him. At the end, joy and love make even the hardest hearted viewer at least tear up.

Maybe the reason I have an obsession with stories of the Wild West and fairy tales is because they offer hope. They offer the belief that love can win all, that hope springs eternal and the cowboy will ride into the sunset at the end. My friend Mrs. McGill told me when she was my age; movies were made to make you smile. Sure, they had their dramas and controversial pieces. But during World War 2, people didn't want to see a movie where families argued and someone died. They wanted to see a love story like The Shop Around the Corner. They wanted to have faith in hope, and they did it with class.

I may never make as much money as Nora Roberts and I may never be as popular as Stephen King. But the stories I tell, they will be classy. They will be charming. They will be witty and articulate. The prince will get his princess; the crooked sheriff will be thrown in jail. The deputy will get his girl and the spell will be broken. There will be hope, happiness and love. And while popular opinion may sneer, I have a sneaking suspicion more than a few of you would be delighted to read a story like that. If you do, let me know. Otherwise I'll have to tell my stories to the inhabitants of the Land of the Flowered Bed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine's Day in the Pond

Love was in the air in the Land of the Flowered Bed. Pumble had been baking cupcakes and cookies all week and slathering them with pink icing. Cookies had been brushing up on his love poems and trying to write a sonnet expressing his love for the chubby little bird outside. Hairy had been organizing a Valentine's Day party for the entire Land of the Flowered Bed. He had spent weeks sending invitations, planting flowers and decorating the room with pink streamers and hearts. It would have been much more effective if he didn't have to take it down every night before the Boy and Girl came home.

Even the ducks had taken to cooing love songs as they splashed around in the Spa. Only the seals seemed uninterested. They lay in the middle of the floor, pouting and sighing loudly.

"What's wrong?" Hairy asked the seals as he finished last minute preparations. "Did you not finish decorating your Valentine's Day mailbox?"

The seals sneered at the white shoebox and pushed it away with their flippers.

"What's wrong?" Hairy repeated his question. One of the seals barked a curt answer.

"What do you mean you don't have Valentines?" Hairy asked. "I thought the flying pigs were your Valentines."

The seals shook their heads quickly, chattering and covering their faces with their flippers.

"Well, I suppose the fact you like seaweed and they like grass is a big difference," Hairy agreed. Pumble looked up from decorating his latest bunch of cupcakes.

"What about Itty and Bitty?" he asked, licking icing off his fingers. The seals made a face and shook their heads.

"What about the GLUG? Or the butterflies?" Cookies asked, twirling a pen in his feathers. The seals raised their eyebrows in disbelief. "What?" Cookies protested. "Bugs can't eat chocolate. You'd get off cheap."

The seals laid their heads on their paws and stared at the ground with miserable expressions.

"They want a Valentine like them," Hairy explained to Pumble and Cookies. "They're sad there aren't any seals or fish."

"We can be their Valentines!" the ducks cried in unison.

"We would love it!" the first duck crowed.

"We would be thrilled!" the second duck cried.

"Would you prefer chocolate or caramels?" the third duck inquired.

"What about Ace and the Babies?" Hairy asked. "They would be sad if they didn't get Valentines. And don't forget Charlie the Dog and Arthur."

"We forgot," the first duck replied.

"How come we got dogs for Valentines?" grumbled the second duck. "Are there no chickens?"

"There is plenty of love to spread around," the third duck offered sweetly.

The seals barked and clapped their flippers for emphasis.

"I'm sure the beluga whales at Sea World would appreciate a card, but I'm not sure if they'd dine on salmon with you," Hairy replied gently. "And I don't think the killer whales are a good idea. They like to eat seals."

The seals looked at each other, stumped. They tapped their flippers against their chins, thinking very hard. Pumble returned to his cupcakes and Cookies tried to figure out what word rhymed with "owl pellet."

Suddenly, the seals glanced up at each other. Their eyes were huge as they both squealed loudly. Hopping up and down, they clapped their flippers and cheered with glee. Clapping each other on the back, they each scurried to separate sides of the room clutching markers and construction paper.

"What the devil are they carrying on about?" Pumble muttered, smearing icing on his forehead. "Don't they realize I'm trying to create?"

"They're going to be each other's Valentines," Hairy said, grinning. "Isn't that cute?"

"Charming," Pumble said. He cocked his head and looked at his work. "I think I'll make a cherry pie next. For the party."

"Great," Hairy said. He smiled as he watched the seals write Valentine's to each other. Hairy returned to hanging the decorations. He was so deep in thought, he almost fell off his step stool when Cookies spoke.

"What rhymes with vermin?"

Monday, February 11, 2008

Upside Down

Hiding behind the glass patio door, I watched Ben wrangle with the mower. The poor thing was surrounded in a mini tornado of dust and sand as he mowed for the first time in months. Every step caused dirt to explode around his feet, settling on his socks and clinging to his legs. His dark hair was covered in a fine coating of sandy dust that had even settled into the lines around his eyes as he scowled at me through the window. As I watched from the safety of the clean and sand-tornado free house, I heard a tiny whine.

"In Me Fence Don't?"

"What?" I snapped, looking down. My eyes widened. My nemesis, a large mosquito, lay within inches of my bare arm. I despise mosquitoes.

"What are you talking about?" I asked, stepping back and hitting the kitchen chair with my back. I cursed and continued to slowly edge away from the mosquito.

"Your shirt!" the mosquito whined. "In Me Fence Don't? What does it mean?" I looked down at my T-shirt. A watercolor "My Little Pony" was rearing behind a fence.

"It says don't fence me in," I explained. "See, the pony is behind the fence..."

"That makes much more sense," the mosquito buzzed happily. "And why is your mouth above your head? Are you a pony? You certainly can not be a human."

"I'm not a pony," I argued, briefly wishing I was one. "I'm a human."

"You don't look like a human," the mosquito argued. "Your head is where your feet should be. You're wearing your shirt where your skirt should be."

Studying the mosquito, I cocked my head.

"You're upside down," I informed him. "That's why things look different." The mosquito cocked his tiny head at me. I took another step back. Dumb as this mosquito was, I was in no mood for a big itchy welt. The mosquito clung tightly to the glass as he carefully turned himself around.

"Oh," he cried, fluttering his tiny wings. A familiar high-pitched buzz filled the air and I cringed involuntarily. "Oh, this is lovely! Everything makes so much sense now!"

"Lovely," I said, rubbing the goosebumps on my arms. "Would you like to go back outside?" The mosquito peered out the window. "You mean I am not outside now?" he cried. "That makes so much more sense! I was wondering where all the dirt and animals were!"

This, I thought to myself as I brushed him out the door, was the dumbest mosquito I had ever met in my life. Using a paper towel I held out at arm's length, I brushed the mosquito out of the screen door and closed it tightly. Ben was still surrounded in a hurricane of dirt as he persevered through the yard.

"Thank you!" the mosquito whined appreciatively. "I do appreciate it. I like the dirt much nicer than your stables."

"I'm not a pony," I reminded him. "This is a house, not a stable." The mosquito buzzed an apology. "Can you do me a favor?" I asked. "Can you not bite my husband please?" I pointed to Ben, who was now cursing as he wrangled the mower around our trees. The mosquito looked at Ben, then looked at me.

"Oh pony-lady, you're silly!" the mosquito laughed shrilly. "Mosquitoes do not eat dust devils! In fact, I'm a different type of mosquito! I dine on something no other mosquito eats! I'm special!"

"You sure are," I muttered, relieved to know the mosquito would not take a bite of Ben. It was paying off to have a stupid mosquito. "What do you eat then?"

"Barbeque!" the mosquito cried joyfully. He sniffed, his long nose pressed to the glass. "I think I smell one now. Good bye!" The mosquito flung himself in the air and flew away. I rolled my eyes. He was one dumb mosquito. Everyone knows mosquitoes don't eat barbeque.

Taking pity on Ben, who was now indistinguishable from the dirt in the air, I set a glass of water on the porch. He stopped the mower and came over, drinking it down in long gulps.

"Do you smell that?" he said, sniffing the air. "Someone's cooking out. We should have barbecue tonight."

A faint whining buzz filled my ears and I shook my head. "Maybe another night," I said, rubbing my arms. They were welt-free, and that's how I intended to be.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Flamenco like Flamingos

Driving to work this morning, I spotted several birds scuttling about on a bald landscape on the side of the road. The road in front of my neighborhood is under construction, so dust floated through the air in thick clouds. As the dust swirled around the birds, one struck a pose. With his wings dramatically in front of him and his black feathers glinting in the sunlight, he cocked his head and looked up into the sky. Curious, I rolled my window down.

"It is time..." he announced, spreading his wings so they fanned outward, "to dance!" Turning quickly, he strutted around the dusty ground and fluttered his wings. Another bird pirouetted through the dirt, leaving a small tornado of dust behind her. Several other birds joined in the frenzy, swirling around in a circle around the two birds.

"We shall flamenco," the first bird called as his partner fanned her feathers in front of her face coyly. "We shall flamenco like the flamingos!"

"The flamingos!" one bird cried. "No one can dance like the flamingos!"

The black bird tossed his head cockily. "They have not seen me," he replied. With that, the dance began.

As I crept forward through the traffic, I watched the two birds bow their heads to each other. To the beat of honking horns, rattling engines and growling machines, the birds began an intricate series of steps as gusts of dust blew around them. The birds would hop to the left, then bend to the right and sweep their wings from one point of the ground to another point. They would approach each other and turn away only to twirl back to each other. The other birds circled the two, flapping their wings as their feet crossed over each other in a grapevine step. Every so often, one of the two birds would touch and gaze into their partner's eyes before fluttering away.

As I pulled away, I caught a glimpse of the end of the dance in my mirror. The black bird was standing behind his dance partner, his wings spread so the tips were touching over his head in a dramatic flair. She had bowed her head demurely and tucked her beak under her wings. The other birds had stopped twirling, letting the air settle down around their tiny feet.

"And that," the black bird bellowed as I drove away, "That is a flamenco worthy of flamingos."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Prancing in the sunlight

Having just returned from a lovely lunch at Mrs. McGill's house, I dropped my purse at my colorless cubicle and made a beeline for the side door. Bursting from the grey world of boredom, I skipped across the parking lot on my daily walk. As I pranced down my daily path, a tiny yellow butterfly perched on my shoulder.

"You're back!" I cried gleefully.

"As we said we would be," the butterfly said solemnly.

"Well, I thought it might be too soon..."

"It's never too soon. Particularly after the dreary winter you just endured."

"It was quite depressing," I admitted. "After awhile, the 40 degree days and cold weather lost it's romance. It's hard to be creative when the sky is grey and misty for weeks in a row."

"Imagine living in a white cottonball for months."

I laughed. The butterfly settled on my shoulder, brushing strands of my hair as he fluttered his wings.

"At least you have maintained hope."

"Yes," I murmured. "There's always hope and there's always faith. But lately, I've been worried I'm not doing enough." The butterfly cocked his antennae at me. "You know." The butterfly's wings shimmered gently in the breeze. "I feel as if I'm not as creative as I was last year. I feel as if all this medocracy and boredom is causing my brain to rot. After all, all these articles can't be good for me," I joked. The butterfly remained still. I pressed on. "I am proud of the work I've done lately, and I think I'll get a good response from all the agents and editors. But I just worry"--

"Your creative streak is gone?" the butterfly finished. I nodded. "Some of my ideas are great, but some of them are so out there..."

"You've always been out there," the butterfly said dryly. "Why are you so worried about trying to define who you are?"

"I guess I just feel maybe I've tapped myself out," I admitted, squinting as the sun hit my eyes. "Maybe I'm obsessing over certain subjects. Maybe that's why all my ideas seem so recycled."

"Who says you have to come up with dozens ideas a week?" the butterfly asked.

"Well, no one, but"--

"It's what you've been doing." I nodded. The butterfly delicately crawled under my hair, tickling my neck with the gentle brush of his wings.

"You are a strange creature," he mused. "You define your life with rules and rigidity, yet spend your life yearning to be free and uninhibited. You must remember to let both sides balance out. Life is not about rules, nor is it about complete adventure. Quality versus quantity, you know. Just because you don't come up with an idea every second doesn't mean you shall fail. Your ideas come from your free mind, but a free mind will perish of boredom if not engaged in thought."

"So what do I do?" I asked, holding up a finger from him to perch on. The butterfly opened and closed his wings slowly.


With that, he kissed my finger gently with his antennae and lifted into the gentle breeze. I heard his wings flutter quietly as he disappeared into the bright sky. Mulling over his words, I felt my lips break into a wide grin. With renewed enthusiasm, I pranced back to the building. The cubicle doesn't look entirely colorless now. But it does look much better out in the sunshine.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The GLUG returns. With Friends.

Ben sighed with relief. He was in heaven. He was outdoors on a shooting range, gun in his hand and wearing shorts in the warm February Texas weather. There were no phone calls, no stress of the city. It was just him and his gun. Just the way he liked it.

"HELLLOOO!!" a familar voice warbled.

"Oh God," Ben muttered. He squeezed his eyes shut, hoping he wouldn't see the little face he had wished to never see again. He looked down toward his arm and opened his eyes. The GLUG was perched on his forearm, his eager little face peering up at him.

"HELLLOOO!" he greeted him. "Do you have any tasty leaves?"

"What are you doing here?" Ben asked, ignoring the GLUG's question.

"What are you doing here?" The GLUG returned the question.


"Shooting's boring," the GLUG dismissed. "I'm eating." He nibbled one of Ben's arm hairs and made a face. "That wasn't grass."

"No," Ben said dryly. "Go away."

"First, you have to meet my family!" the GLUG said cheerfully, gesturing behind him. Ben looked up and gasped. A swarm of green bugs was coming his way.

"HEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" a thunderous cry came from the swarm.

"How many people are in your family?" Ben chocked out, watching the swarm coming towards him. "I thought you were the only GLUG!"

"Of course I am," the GLUG said in an arrogant tone. "I was so exceptional that I felt the need to make copies of myself. But I am the original GLUG. The one and only!"

Ben began waving frantically as the swarm descended upon him.

"Do you have any leaves?" one small green bug questioned.

"Do you have any cheese?" another asked.

"What's that think in your hand?" a third bug asked, sitting on Ben's nose. He nearly went cross-eyed trying to see the tiny green speck on his nose.

"Can you open a coke and pour it out on the ground so we can drink the sugar?" another asked, buzzing around Ben's shoulder.

"Shoo, shoo!" Ben cried, waving his hand though the air. "Get off me!" He brushed the bugs off him. The bugs simply floated around his head.

"You know, I thought you'd enjoy meeting my friends," the GLUG scowled.

"I thought they were your family," Ben said, delicately removing a tiny green bug from his hair. The bug grinned sheepishly. "I thought it was a forest," he explained. Ben rolled his eyes and the bug jumped from his hand.

"Whatever," the GLUG rolled his eyes. "We'll hang around and watch you shoot."

"Goodie," Ben rolled his eyes. The tiny swarm of bugs followed him everywhere he went, buzzing around his head as he shot, following him to the trash can as he deposited shells and over to the picnic table as he sat and waited for his turn.

"You know, you're boring," the GLUG announced. "This isn't even mildly interesting."

"You know what would be really exciting?" Ben forced a smile. The bugs whizzing around his head became excited.

"WHAT?" they squealed in unison.

"Eating that tree over there!" Ben pointed to a small bush.

"HOORAY!" the bugs squealed, launching themselves toward the bush as fast as their tiny wings would go. The GLUG lingered, looking at Ben suspiciously.

"This is a trick," he said, narrowing his eyes at Ben.

"Nope," Ben said, still pointing at the bush.

"Those leaves aren't really tasty," the GLUG nodded his head.

"Nope," Ben said. He saw the GLUG's eyes widen in surprise. Leaning forward, he whispered, "They're more than tasty. They're magnificint."

"Really?" the GLUG purred, fluttering his little wings. He looked at Ben. "Magnificent, you say?"

"Tastiest leaves ever," Ben lied. He ignored the itch on his shoulder. His whole body felt like he was crawling with bugs.

"Well then," the GLUG beamed. "GOODBYE! I'll see you next time!" He took off toward the swarm of green bugs.

"Oh boy," Ben sighed. He packed up his gun as fast as possible and jumped in the car. He knew the GLUG would be back.

And he didn't want to see what new friends he brought with him.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Pumble presents his bread

"Cookies!" Pumble groused, shoving Cookies in the stomach. "You're not doing this right!"

"Well, tell me," Cookies said testily. "How do you suppose you upload photos with wings, hmm? I have feathers! Feathers don't push buttons, you massive insect. You're the expert. You tell me!"

"We must show the world my glorious loaves of bread!" Pumble bellowed. "My cooking show audience is begging for photos! They need pictures!"

"If you already showed them on TV, what's the problem?" Cookies sneered. "Oh, that's right, it was an invisible camera!

"Now, now," Hairy said, trying to calm them. "Look, the photos are up. See? Everyone can see it. Your bread can be seen by the world."

"Good," Pumble said, satisfied. "I hope they enjoy it."

"I'm sure they will," Hairy said, rolling his eyes. "I'm sure they will."

Pumble the Bee showcases his banana nut bread (recipe from Better Homes and Garden's New Cooking.)

Pumble's Pumpkin Bread (he stole the recipie from the Blonde Duck's Mom.)

(use three 8" x 3 7/8" x 2 15/32" disposable cook n' carry pans. Can also use one normal size 1 lb. loaf pan.)

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups of sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1 can pumpkin (15 oz.)
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
4 eggs
Mix all dry ingrediants together. Then add the canned pumpkin, oil, eggs and water. Mix well. Pour into three pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes. Check the bread by inserting a toothpick into the center. If it comes out gooey, bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Wrap in foil for later or eat and enjoy. Pumble advises serving with honey and flower pollen, but that's your choice.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Cooking Show

Pumble was busy humming away in the kitchen, stirring yellow liquid into a bowl very intensely.

"What are you doing?" Hairy asked, standing on his toes in an attempt to peek over the edge.

"Get down!" Pumble hissed. "We're shooting right now!"

"Shooting what?" Hairy asked, looking around. There wasn't a camera in sight. "What are you making?"

Pumble huffed and set the bowl down hard on the counter. "I'm making banana nut bread for my new cooking TV show!" he growled. "Do you mind? We're filming right now!"

"There's no one here," Hairy whispered, motioning to the empty counter.

"It's an invisible camera," Pumble snapped.

"Right," Hairy rolled his eyes. He settled onto a kitchen chair, watching as Pumble beamed for the cameras.

"After adding the wet and dry ingredients together, pour in a half-cup of pecans," Pumble instructed the wall. "Then stir until mixed thoroughly, but not too much. You want the batter to be bumpy."

Cookies walked in and eyed Pumble. "What is he doing?" he asked, raising his eyebrow tiredly. "He just ate thirty minutes ago! He can't be hungry again!"

"This is a closed set!" Pumble hissed through gritted teeth. "Hairy, please remove him from the premises!"

"It's the kitchen," Cookies said dryly. "What the devil are you doing?"

"He's making banana nut bread for his cooking show," Hairy answered, gesturing to the yellow bowl on the counter.

"There's no cameras here," Cookies observed.

"It's invisible!" Pumble cried. He turned back to his audience and beamed. "Now pour into a bread pan, gently scraping the sides of the bowl to get all the batter in. There you go! Now bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees." Pumble expertly poured the batter into the pan and dropped the dirty spatula into the bowl. Humming to himself, he opened the oven and placed the pan in.

The seals hopped in and cocked their heads. They looked up at Hairy and barked their question.

"He's filming a cooking show about banana nut bread," Hairy answered in a patient voice.The seals looked at the wall, looked at Hairy and looked at the wall again. They cocked their heads.

"There's no camera," Cookies informed them.

"It's invisible!" Pumble snapped. He turned back to the wall and beamed at his imaginary audience. "While the banana nut bread is baking, we'll start mixing the ingrediants for pumpkin bread. This is a very simple dish that makes three small loaves of bread. You'll need..."While he rattled off ingredients, Cookies turned to Hairy.

"Are you just going to sit here and watch him babble to the wall and make bread all day?"

Hairy shrugged. "I don't see any reason not to. It's cold outside and it's nice to take a break from the Land of the Flowered Bed."

The seals chattered in agreement and asked for some tuna and juice. While Hairy got them their lunch, Cookies huffed and hopped up. He scurried over to the pantry.

"I suppose I should make some tea," he told Hairy in his typical snotty tone. "While we wait for the bread, of course."

"Of course," Hairy said, hiding his smile.

As they climbed up to the kitchen table, Pumble beamed and spread his hands over his ingredients. "First, let's add the flour and sugar," he told the wall, pulling out his measuring cups. Behind him, the other animals were having a quiet lunch as they snacked on tuna, crackers and tea. Pumble glanced behind him and smiled.

"You see that," he whispered to the invisible camera. "I've got a studio audience already! Now, let's make something to feed them!"

** Pumpkin bread recipe and photos coming soon, courtesy of Pumble.