Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Stills: The Letter "T"

This week's challenge was the letter "T." First...the literal interpretations:

Next, the representative photos:

"T" is for Trot:

"T" is for Tack Boxes:

"T" is for Table:

"T" is for Tail Bag:
And that's the end.

For more interpretations of the letter "T," visit Sunday Stills.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving Thanks

Photo credit: Emily Dueker (2008)

So much we take for granted.

A few weeks ago, a woman complained in a letter to the editor of our weekly suburban newspaper that a local gas station attendant had been rude to her. The employee's "insulting" behavior included what I interpreted to be an attempt at humor. Whatever. The slight didn't include theft, or physical threat or injury. Merely a comment that she didn't appreciate.

My first thought on reading the letter was: This woman has lived a very sheltered and privileged life. If an offhand comment by a gas station attendant warrants a letter to the editor, then I can only assume that the woman has never experienced the death or serious illness of a loved one, she has never faced a potential life-altering illness or injury herself. She must always have had a safe and secure home, not to mention comfortable income. She's never survived a natural disaster. Never been robbed or accosted. You get the gist of my thoughts.

Basically...this woman must be extremely fortunate if a perceived slight from a gas station attendant is worth a scathing letter to the editor. The writer had no appreciation of how good she's had it!

So at this time of year I, like so many others, assess the things for which I am appreciative.

I am thankful that my mother is still with us. She turned 87 this year and had some health setbacks after taking three spills this summer. I am thankful that she broke no bones as a result of her falls. She has slowed down somewhat and is now on supplemental oxygen 24/7 -- but she still sews (a lifelong interest), does light housework, and balances her checkbook.

I am thankful for my good health (aided and abetted by Dr. Cindy and Dr. Stan). I'm experiencing a few initial "aging" issues, but otherwise doing pretty darned good (aside from a metabolism at a dead halt).

I am thankful for our house. It is the nicest place I have ever lived and I confess that for the first few years I felt awkward and undeserving residing in such (to me) plush surroundings. Obviously, I lack a sense of Entitlement. I could use use a little more. Not so much as to be as obnoxious as some I observe, but enough to make me stand up for what I truly deserve. I'm getting better as I accumulate experience and a wee bit of chutzpah.

I'm thankful for some family members. Come on! Confess. Some of our relatives are real pains. I'm thankful that not many of my blood relations plague me, and that I have (and have had) some real gems.

I am thankful for the friends I've made over the years. At school, work, the barn, and elsewhere. I may not remain in contact with many of them, but they've all touched me in some manner and made me a better person in many ways.

I am thankful for the fur people in my life, past and present. An infinitely patient childhood dog, a first horse who gave me wings, and other fur people who have loved me despite my many shortcomings.

I am thankful that I live in a country and an era where and when an unmarried woman is free to hold a full time job and live independently. I may vote, I may own property, I may sign a contract in my own right. Women gave their lives in this very country to guarantee me these rights.

And I am thankful for polyester fleece, seam-sealed waterproof outerwear, German chocolate cake, Norman Rockwell, Jane Austen, television and video entertainment (tapes, dvds, and whatever comes next), Oregon (the dream and the reality), the main branch Multnomah County Library, and much too much to list here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Stills: Horses

The subject of this challenge was easy for me; however, conditions at the barn were less than helpful. I chose to leave the camera home during the miserable wet and blustery days.

But I did have one dry day at the barn this past week so I captured Phantom in his fuzzy winter glory. He doesn't seem to get quite as fluffy as some of the other horses, but he still puts on a coat for winter.

The following are from my archives.

Cooling Out

Last Trail Ride of the Season

Flying Change


Ed at Sunday Stills is the mastermind behind the photo challenges. Check out the creative work of the bloggers who follow him.

For some reason the link to my blog was deleted from Ed's list of contributors. I must have done something to offend, but I'm not sure what. Oh well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Princess Trixie Diary

Ach, Himmel!! Princess Trixie is losing weight and developing a waistline!! As long as the weather is dry, she's eager to go outside and trots out or runs to keep up with Indy who is usually at the end of his 15-foot Flexi Leash.

Got a chuckle out of our German Princess today. We were at one of the pocket parks in the vicinity and Trixie rolled onto her back to get a good scratch on the grass. She was on a slight slope and inadvertently did a 360 rollover downhill! Not what she had in mind, I'm sure. I unwrapped the leash and we were on our way again.

Speaking of accidents. I think Indy had another encounter with the hot wire at the barn yesterday. We were all alone and I turned him loose while I returned Phantom to his turnout paddock. When I turned to walk back I saw Indy hauling butt toward the little barn where he disappeared. The last time I witnessed him do that was when he checked out that wire below the paddock tape. Since Indy generally watches me with Phantom while keeping his distance, I figured something was up. I think he hid in the feed room because I couldn't find him when I reached the barn. He was sure glad to receive a reassuring hug when he came out of hiding. Man, he's going to turn into a poodle yet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Princess Trixie Diary

Yes, that's Indy's bed usurped by the cutest mini doxie on the block. Actually, Indy uses the bed only on rare occasion, since he sleeps in his crate. Still....

We're settling into a routine and Trixie has figured out what our walks are for. She's made it clear that she doesn't do rain, so my mother is searching her fabric stash for the length of water-resistant material that she knows is there. (Anyone who sews or lives with a sewer knows that "She who dies with the most fabric, wins.")

Actually, we've temporarily added another source of laughter to the house. Trixie walks underneath Indy when he stops to drink from the decorative bird-bath stone beside our front walk. He isn't fazed in the least and Trixie doesn't even have to duck. Trixie discovered a faux sheepskin "dog bone" toy that doesn't interest Indy. She rolls onto her back as she hugs and flips it with her feet (she broke the squeaker within the first minute of play).

Her Highness Princess Trixie has staked a claim on my mother and me. She barks and snarls at Indy when she catches me giving him some loves, and chases him away from everything in the house she now considers to be hers.

Quite the education for me in dog breed personalities. Indy learned within a day or two to ring a bell to signal his desire to go outside. Trixie stubbornly refuses to pick up on the signal. Such is the difference between a herding dog bred to work with humans, and a go-to-ground dachshund bred to face a badger alone. :-)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Who's In Charge Here?

Indy's "cousin" Trixie is visiting us for a few weeks while her people (my aunt and uncle) are out of town.

"All right, what did you do with my people?"

"They went thisaway."

Trixie is a miniature dachshund with their typical stubborn attitude. A little "German Princess." This is only her second full day with us, so we're still settling into a routine. But she has a brand new fleece coat (sewn last night by my mother) that came in handy during this morning's frosty walk.

One more demanding animal. ARGH!

Phantom demands a scratch under his bridle at the mounting block before I climb aboard. And upon returning to the little barn after my ride, Phantom demands cookies from the treat jar sitting atop the tack trunk in front of his stall.

Indy signals his demand to go outside with a ring of the bells hanging from the front door handle. Every evening he demands a game of keep-away by grabbing a toy or licked-clean paper plate or bowl and flipping the item until I take up the chase.

Trixie demands lap time any and every time my mother or I create one. She also demands space in my bed at night before falling asleep in her crate. Since Indy sleeps in his crate, his cousin Trixie is relegated to a crate also.

I already had two demanding animals in my life. Now I've added a third for a few weeks.

What was I thinking?! ;-)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Getting There

Character Building

Many "how to" resources include character sheets to help the author develop primary and secondary characters for fictional works. The author fills in the obvious physical parameters (height, hair and eye color, etc.), education, interests & hobbies, favorite color, and so forth. Then there are the deeper personality aspects. What skills to the characters bring to the story? What are the main characters' weaknesses? What are the characters' greatest fears.

I like to locate pictures to represent my main characters. Sometimes the picture inspires the character. Sometimes I have a vague idea for the character and locating a picture helps me complete the personality.

I came upon these pictures decades ago:

This is Aisley, the protagonist of Legacy, my current YA project. These pictures created in my mind the image of a slender, petite young woman who inspired the loyalty of battle-hardened men. On the order of Joan of Arc. But my rendering of the circumstances in the world of my making.

World Building

As to creating a world for a fantasy or science fiction novel, I highly recommend visiting Patricia C. Wrede's "Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions" at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America web site.

Another great site to assist with world building is Elfwood. Check out the Fantasy Art Resource Project (FARP), in particular, the contributions from Emma Lydia Bates and Michael James Liljenberg.

When creating a world and culture...I prefer to cheat. That is, I research historical time periods and locations to help answer the questions posed by the above-referenced world building sites. Now, I always thought that this was a pretty obvious approach -- until a fellow conference attendee asked how to go about creating a setting for her fantasy novel.

I like to do my research before I begin writing because I often stumble across social, cultural, historical tidbits that spark ideas for the story. A situation or event I wouldn't otherwise have considered.

And sometimes I research a location or time period that seems totally unrelated to the intended setting for my story. Most recently I read about 1950s Havana for a "space opera" story that I've been mulling around for a long time.

Writer's Block

I'm currently at a standstill on Legacy. I suspect I'm over thinking the scenes and I should just put words on the computer screen. Right, Em?

But what I find myself doing is moving on to another story idea. Outlining scenes for Water Tribute, or doing research for another story idea like Resistance Fighters. Then when I return to Legacy, it's fresh and interesting again.

Really...writing a novel is not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Stills: Currency

Giant pennies among our Halloween "treats:"

"Valuables" collected during dog walks:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Not Just for Arabians

Another Perspective

Patrick Swayze is featured in the cover story of the October/November issue of Modern Arabian Horse. The media retrospectives done at his death focused on Swayze's acting career and made little, if any, mention of his equestrian activities. The MAH article portrays Swayze as just another horse lover -- someone we can all identify with.

Great Idea

The October/November issue of MAH highlights On the Cuff in it's "What's in Store" section. On the Cuff is a donut-shaped sponge that fits around the wrist to prevent water from running down the arm while doing chores, such as bathing a horse, washing a car or windows, etc. I could have used a pair this past summer!

Good Information

The "Bits & Bites" section of MAH alerts folks to the availability of "Horse Owner's Field Guide to Toxic Plants." The book "...includes the 100 most common and toxic plants found in pastures, backyards, around barns and along trails." The Two Horse Enterprises web site offers many useful books for horse owners. Check it out.

"Bits & Bites" also refers riders to Troxel's Safety Resource Center where we can find up-to-date helmet protection information. The site includes "close call" stories where riders post their firsthand experiences with falls, kicks, etc.

Hauling your horse to a show or trail ride? The "Book Nook" portion of "Bits & Bites" advises readers that all seven Horse Tales for the Soul books are available on audio CD. Each of the stories is reportedly read by actual Horse Tales authors from around the world. Each book has more than 4.5 hours of stories to listen to. So you may be inclined to take the long route to your destination. Available at The Complete Pet or Horse Tales For The Soul.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gone ridin'

We enjoyed another day of unseasonably warm and dry weather in the Pacific Northwest.

Trainer Tracey and I schooled our horses in the outdoor arena -- taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and our wonderful addition to the facility. I suspect Marilyn took Cody outside for a the least.

Genevieve and Molly went for a trail ride. Probably the last one of the year.

Char and Mick gave Pugsley and bath with plans to clip him for the winter. Dirty hair clogs clippers big time, thus the rush to bathe during one of our last nice days of the fall.

And those are just the folks I know about who absorbed some rays while at the barn today.

Holding off the cold, wet, gray months as long as we can.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Proud "Aunt"

Emily was recently recognized for her artistic efforts by Young Life. Check out her winning T-shirt design. She's always been a giving person, and she's very much enjoying the friendships she's made through Young Life.

The contest win is another feather in her cap as she pursues a degree in art before establishing herself as a professional photographer.

Brother Steven began studies in fire science this fall as he goes after his bachelor's degree. He talks about the excitement of dealing with unexpected challenges, but beneath the typical "guy" facade, he's a caring young man.

I'm only an "adopted" aunt -- but a privilege nonetheless.