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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Of Christmas, Kidney Stones, Wilford Brimley, Vampires, and Adverbs

Can we talk Christmas for a minute? I know it's over and everything, but I have a little Christmas story I've been dying to tell you. Not the uplifting kind, mind you. More the, if-you're-easily-offended-you-should-look-away kind. Also, if you have a special fondness for adverbs and authors who use a lot of them--not naming any names (yet)-- then you should probably skip this post all together.

My story starts on Christmas Eve with my family's traditional gag gift exchange. This year the prize for Best Gag Gift Ever went to my brother who handmade his gift for my father. Whom, you should know, sometimes suffers from kidney stones and had passed some just days before our Christmas Eve celebration. With this in mind my brother, who is a manufacturing engineer (whatever that it is) and therefore good at making things, created a kidney stone catcher for my dad. A hands-free one. And then cleverly named it Dr. Cox's Hands Free Kidney Stone Catcher.

Dr. Cox's kit not only included a strainer attached to some adjustable rope shoulder straps to hold it in place, but also a "bitin'" stick. I have a picture of my dad demonstrating how the contraption works (though not the actual stone passing necessitating the device), but he threatened to disown me when I mentioned it would be going on my blog. And then I got a new phone, but the picture stayed on my old one. Otherwise, I probably would have risked being kicked out of my family-- it was that good.

The runner-up prizes go to my sister-in-law and me. And since I can't post the picture I want of my dad, I'll post one of her:
That's my dog she's holding, after Lola was found and sheared. And you know what else my SIL holds? A PhD from Cornell University. Which makes her a doctor. A doctor of plants and their pathology, but still a doctor. And, as far as I know, she is the only doctor, ever, in the whole history of the Nelson family line. Drunks we've got; doctors, not so much.

So for her gag gift I gave her a picture of this man:
Who she once referred to, in all seriousness, as Elder Wilford H. Brimley. That Dr. Smarty-pants (as my SIL is affectionately known) thought Wilford Brimley was a general authority is funny enough on it's own. But the fact she assigned him a middle initial makes her mistake pretty darn hilarious. Because, as we all know (if we're Mormon. If not, this is sort of a had-to-be-there joke. Sorry), you can't be in the upper echelons of church leadership without an initial as part of your name.

Her gift to me, though, was just as clever. Here it is:

How is one of the greatest books of all time a gag gift, you ask? Well, I asked the same thing.

Until I opened it and read this:
"About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was part of him--and I didn't know how potent that part might be--that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."

Angela had doctored up--very convincingly, I might add-- a copy of Twilight to look like  Pride and Prejudice. Thereby making me gag! Brilliant, I tells ya. Brilliant!

But actually, my doctored up P&P has come in pretty handy. You see, despite swearing off any and all things having to do with vampires or werewolves (though I'm leaving my options open for anything with mummies), I've been toying with a story idea that would require some knowledge of the Twilight series. Which means I'd need to read it. I'd thought about downloading it to my Kindle, but hated to pay for it. And now I don't have to. I can not only read it in public without embarrassment, but also look like I am a smarty-pants too.

So I have been (reading it, that is. I don't know about the looking like a smary-pants part). And do you know what I have discovered?

Adverbs. Lots and lots of adverbs.

And do you know what the first rule in writing is?

Show don't tell. Which is another way of saying, "if it ends in -ly, get rid of it."

Now go back and read that paragraph from Twilight. Did you notice how many words end in -ly? Three. Out of forty-four words. Which works out to about one in every fifteen words. And I'd say that's pretty consistent with the entire book, judging by what I've read so far.

I'm not saying this means Ms. Meyers is not a good writer (I'll keep those reasons to myself), I'm just saying she likes her some adverbs. And you know who else does?

J.K. Rowling. Whose books I actually really like (all this talk of adverbs has pushed me to over-adverb myself).

And you know what else Stephanie Meyers and J.K. Rowling have in common besides their love for adverbs?

Large bank accounts. Filled with money. I'd guess about a million dollars for every adverb used in their each of their books.

And that's a lotta adverbs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How Many Villages Do I Need?

I don't mean to keep going on and on about my dog (really, one post about a dog on a blog with the word "cats" in the title should be enough, right?) but she is much on my mind lately. Mostly because it's a little lonely being the only one in the house barking anymore, but also because she is coming home today.

And so, this post is an ode to the dog who is afraid of almost everything. Everything except death.

She's eluded it a number of times here at home when something has frightened her enough to make her run away and she's been lost over night. And sure, we've got coyotes and hawks and other hungry predators wandering around these parts. Not to mention the cars. Lots and lots of cars.

But does this dog

look like she could survive in this?
(No, my parents don't live in Antarctica.
But, seriously, it's cold in No. Utah!)

or fight off this?

Because one of those has been spotted behind my mom and dad's house where, presumably, Lola ran to escape the fireworks. Apparently that is a lot less frightening to a small dog than loud noises followed by pretty colors in the sky.

I mean, sure Lola's got those frightening alien eyes. But that's only in this picture. And, as is also evidenced in the picture, she wears scarves.

You know what's not intimidating to predators?


She wasn't wearing one at the time of her sojourn in the wilderness, but I think predators know instinctively when they've come across accessory wearing prey. I imagine had Lola met the Big Bad Wolf (I'm assuming she didn't since she's still alive) and been wearing her scarf, the conversation would have gone something like this:

B.B. Wolf (eyeing Lola menacingly): I like your scarf.

Lola (answering a bit nervously): Thanks. I got it at the groomers.

B.B. Wolf: Hmm. You know where I get my scarves?

Lola (feeling a little more at ease): No. Where?

B.B. Wolf: From little dogs who get groomed.

Lola (not so at ease anymore, she slowly starts inching away): Oh.

B.B. Wolf: Know where I get my dinner?

Lola shakes head no.

B.B. Wolf: Same place.

I've tried to imagine other conversations Lola could have had with some kinder, more herbivore than carnivore, sort of forest animals who may have helped her find the way home. But she's not so good with her own species, so I can't imagine she's any better with other animal groups. I'm guessing she spent most of her time running and hiding rather than chatting up any squirrels or magpies.

And, in fact, she didn't make her way home. Instead a neighbor of my parents found her and, knowing there were three sad, dogless, little girls in California, determined to rescue her. So he called her name. Which, naturally, made her run. (She has a healthy respect for stranger danger, that one).  His next step was to hop on a bicycle and chase her. And chase her.

And chase her (she may be little, but she's fast).

When that didn't work, he got in his truck and continued to chase her. Up a mountain (which is easier to do in a truck than on a bicycle). Until he finally got close enough to throw a piece of canvas over her and capture her. He topped off her new canvas ensemble with his own hat (more to keep her from biting him than as an accessory) and Lola was rescued!

The best part is, this neighbor went to all that work to save a semi-loved pet for someone he doesn't even know. I may have met him before, but I can't remember. I imagine he looks something like this, though:

Or maybe even this:

Then, not to be outshone by one neighbor's neighborliness, some other neighbors came over to help nurse Lola, who looked like this:
this is her matted, cockleburr fur

so tramatized, she's lost the eerie shine to her eyes

They were also kind enough to help bathe her and give her a much needed haircut. With sheep shears. (Work with what you've got, right?) I don't have a picture of these neighbors either, but they look a little like this:
And you may remember them from here.

The final piece in Lola's Incredible Journey is Melinda, who looked like this the last time I saw her (and went by Mindy):

Which is a LOT better than what I looked like twenty years ago, but you get the point. It's been a while. Yet she has volunteered to bring my dumb dog back to me all the way from Utah to California. I can only assume she's undertaken such a task for one of the following reasons:
A. She remembers me being much nicer than I actually was, lo those many years ago.
B. She likes to roadtrip with dogs and doesn't have one (nor has she met mine).
C. She really wants to get out of Utah.

I'm pretty sure it's that last one.

And so the lesson learned this week from Lola the Dog (affectionately known as Dummy) is this:

It takes a villages both far and near for me to not only raise my kids, but also my dog.