It’s the kiddy pool for me

Since my shoulder surgery, I have become best friends with my brace. It seems our relationship will continue for a few more months.

“No.” My surgeon’s physician’s assistant shook her pretty head. (Not only was she smart, she looked like a fairy princess in her cute scrubs, so clearly, she’d won the gene-pool lottery.)

Still, I couldn’t help but argue my point. “But I’ll only dive off the shore, so I won’t have to go on a boat where I might encounter currents or rough water.” I smiled hoping to persuade her. “And it’s the Caribbean, which is calm, like glass.”

Okay. My conscience niggled at me, since I’d certainly been scuba diving in that beautiful sea when a storm popped up out of nowhere and wild water made maneuvering tough, but mostly those things didn’t happen.

She stared me down.

Sensing a need to negotiate, I said, “How about snorkeling?” Now, I really don’t like that sport, since once you’ve had the freedom of tanks, anything else seems rather bland. But I was ten days out from heading to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and I hadn’t been diving in almost two years, a gift from the pandemic.

“And what if you felt the need to use your arm?” she said, eyebrows raised.

“I’ll wear my brace. How about that?” I sounded like I was begging, which of course I was.

A life spent participating in sports has left me with a lot of broken parts.

“Twelve more weeks,” she said. “And this is usually the time when patients re-tear their rotator cuffs,” she added for emphasis.

I froze. Six weeks earlier, I’d undergone my second rotator cuff surgery, a miserable operation with a seemingly endless number of restrictions and long, painful rehab. I really believed I had a lifetime warranty after the first one, but I’d learned—to my despair— that Mother Nature has graced us with three rotator-cuff parts, any one of which can fail, especially for someone like me, since I spent 60 years participating in sports: ice skating, skiing, lap swimming, scuba diving, and officiating amateur sports—football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball.

When my sweetie pie picked me up from the doctor’s office—no driving allowed—I told him I was restricted from diving. “That’s too bad,” he said.

“Maybe I could just bring my mask and fins,” I said hopefully. “I’ll just paddle around near the shore. How could I possibly get into any trouble?”

I hovered in shallow water above a rocky field of sea urchins and, for a time, was unable to escape.

He glanced at me. “Remember the sea urchins?”

I sucked in a breath. On that day, Ryan and I were snorkeling near the Fredrikstad Pier on St. Croix’s west end. The sea was completely calm, but suddenly a whoosh of water dropped me down, where I hovered a few inches above a rocky bed of sea urchins, their needle-like spines poised to impale me…well…in the boobs. I would have gasped had I not had a snorkel in my mouth. I tried to back out, to get into deeper water, but the surge kept me pinned in place, bobbing dangerously above thousands of pointed spikes. Note here that while sea urchins are rarely poisonous, I guarantee you will never forget should you be unfortunate enough to be stabbed by one of them.

“What would you have done to get out of there?” Ryan asked.

“Point taken.”

As I prepare to head off on my Caribbean vacation, I realize this is as close to the water as I’ll probably get.

“You would have used your arms, right?”

“Of course.” In fact, that is exactly how I scuttled to safety that day, gently moving my arms backwards, easing myself away from the prickly creatures, all the while hoping another surge wouldn’t impale me on those lethally-sharp spines.

“Do you really want to bring your mask and fins?” He asked, keeping his eyes on the road.

“I guess not.” I hung my head, dejected. For no apparent reason, I pictured myself in a kiddy pool wearing my brace and mask and snorkel, which is probably as close to the water as I’ll get this time around.

“We’ll be going again soon,” Ryan said, trying to cheer me up.

And they’ll be good food and wine and pretty sunsets and beachcombing, I reminded myself. And that will have to do.

For now.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wild-horses-on-the-salt-cover-2.jpg

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Perception: Don’t jump to conclusions

Perception is a funny thing.

Take the day I walked into my living room and gasped at the sight of my carpet, for example. A bright white splotch glowed from the floor which sent me into a bit of a tizzy.

“No, no, no!” I yelled , though no one was home to hear. “There’s a reason we don’t use bleach!” (Mostly, my long and sorted past of ruining things with the stuff.)

I rushed to the kitchen, wetted a rag, and hurried back to the living room in the hope I could erase the glaring spot. I mentally cursed the kids, wondering who had spilled the bleach that I knew no amount of elbow grease could fade. Still, I worked at the stain, while simultaneously calculating the cost of replacing the rug.

Finally, realizing there was no way to remove the mark, I rose and considered my options. I thought perhaps I could move a piece of furniture to cover the blotch, but of course it was right in the middle of the carpet. I thought of flipping the rug over, but was sure the bleach had soaked through.

I sighed, then started hauling off the furniture so I could roll the carpet up. I would have to throw it away.

But then, a strange thing happened. The stain…moved.

I stood very still. Perhaps I was dreaming. I thought about that for a moment and decided I was awake. I blinked and lowered myself onto the edge of a chair. Then, after some careful contemplation, the reality of the situation struck. I bent down and held my hand over the blotch and there it was. Why I hadn’t seen it earlier I cannot say.

The “stain” was nothing more than a ray of sunshine gleaming past my backyard trees, through my bay window, and onto the carpet. I suppose I should have realized sooner, but I have a tendency to jump to conclusions.

My sunshine stain made me considered why we humans are so quick to view things a certain way, often without thought. That this was not the first time I was absolutely sure of myself only to discover I was completely wrong made me consider how the world might be a better place if we all stopped and thought, before blindly stumbling into false conclusions.

It’s said that perception is all about using our senses—sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing—to make sense of the world around us. But our perceptions are also affected by our preconceived notions, which in my sunshine-stain case might have been prompted by my lifelong inability to get along with bleach.

The point is that people can look at the same situation and come to different conclusions. However, if we step back and thoughtfully consider what we’re looking at, perhaps we can avoid getting it wrong.

That said, I like my Irish cousin’s take on perception. “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― William Butler Yeats

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wild-horses-on-the-salt-cover-2.jpg

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

The Tough Guy and the Octopus

A while back, I stared at a restaurant menu that featured octopus. My mind immediately went back to the day my sweetie pie and I were scuba diving when we came upon a small brown octopus. The little guy didn’t sail away in a cloud of black ink, instead he puffed himself up and faced us down. His strange eyes flitted back and forth. Perhaps he wondered what these giant, bubble-blowing creatures might be.

Believe it or not, octopuses are quite cute. They kind of look like benevolent aliens.

Later, I decide the wee animal was quite cute. Not like a kitten or a koala bear perhaps, more like a benevolent-looking, cartoon alien. I didn’t know much about octopuses at the time, aside from their inclusion on menus.

“Want to try the octopus?” Ryan asked.

I creased my brow. While the garlic and herbs and olive oil in which the octopus was prepared sounded lovely, I  struggled. Finally, I shook my head. “It doesn’t bother you to eat octopus after meeting that little guy?”

Ryan stared at me. “I don’t have a problem with it.” Still, he didn’t order the octopus.

Let me interject here that Ryan is generally considered a tough guy. In a former life he did security and worked as a body guard for rock-and-roll bands and sporting events—including eight Super Bowls, NBA and NHL All-Star Games and soccer’s World Cup—and, in my favorite job, he stood backstage at countless performances of Phantom of the Opera, in an effort to keep rabid musical theater crowds—You know how dangerous they can be!—from mobbing Michael Crawford. The point is, you wouldn’t think Ry would be the least bit sentimental.

While watching My Octopus Teacher, Ryan and I learned just how brilliant and friendly an octopus can be.

Recently, I convinced him to watch the documentary My Octopus Teacher, which is up for an Oscar this year. The story is about a filmmaker who is going through a mental health crises. He lives in South Africa and swims in a beautiful kelp forest every day. There he meets an octopus.

Over time, he and the creature become friends, which seems astounding for an animal that is primarily water and is essentially a snail without a shell. We learned that the octopus is quite brilliant. When attacked by a shark it can gather shells and rocks in seconds to create a place to hide, for example. Once the octopus trusted the man, she would often cling to him and let him pet her, which made me stare at the two cats in my lap.

It was fascinating and heartbreaking that even though the man was devoted to the little octopus—he swam with her every day for a year—he did not interfere with nature. It was difficult to watch as the animal was attacked by a shark and lost an arm. She hid for two weeks and the man grieved, but when she finally came out of her den, he could see a new arm growing where the lost one had been.

The octopus and the beauty of the kelp forest healed the man and made my sweetie pie cry.

Of course, there would be no happy ending, because the lifespan of this type of octopus was just one year. After mating and reproducing the creatures generally die of starvation. We watched the moment shortly after she’d laid her eggs when she came out of her den and gave herself up to predators, eventually being taken away by a shark.

As the final beautiful shots of the kelp forest and the fascinating creatures within rolled by, I looked over at Ryan. I watched as he swiped at his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Could you eat an octopus now?” I asked.

He didn’t respond, but I’m pretty sure I know the answer.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wild-horses-on-the-salt-cover-2.jpg

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Never waste a teachable moment

Teachable moments arise when children take an interest in a subject, providing teachers and parents with an opening to enhance learning.

Before I became a teacher, a vocation I entered in my mid-forties, I had never heard the phrase “teachable moment.” I like the explanation of the term given by fairygodboss.com: “A teachable moment is an opportunity for a teacher or parent to provide special insights on a topic that has captured the attention of their classroom or children. Teachable moments are unplanned and must be sensed and seized by the teacher or parent…Teachable moments are easier for children to digest and remember because they are inherently more interested in the topic at hand and can feel its applications to the world around them.” 

Now that you all have that straight, let’s think back to teachable moments our parents may have fumbled over the years.

I’ll go first.

When I was about 12, I decided to dig a hole in the garage wall of my home. What precipitated my deliberate destruction? Pure amazement following a TV show that documented a fabulous archeological discovery. The artwork was located in a network of caves in Lascaux, France. Fantastical paintings of animals—magnificent horses, antlered animals resembling elk and deer, bison, aurochs—and the people who hunted them. Six thousand figures in all.

This is a replica of one of the panels in a cave in Lascaux, France. The originals were damaged when too many people flocked to see the ancient paintings.

The narrator explained that little was known about the humans who painted their caves with such reverence 17,000 years ago. Still, I was enthralled by these ancient artists and wondered how they spent their days, and how they made their paints, and why they created the vast herds of creatures that decorated their walls.

Then, a light bulb went off. I wondered who might have lived in my own home all those years ago. (No, it did not register in my wee brain that my house in suburban New Jersey was only about ten years old.) I was convinced that, if I looked hard enough, I could discover ancient artifacts that might tell me about the people who lived in my home before my family arrived.

Now, in a perfect “teachable moment” the following would have occurred when my mother pulled into the driveway while I was attempting to pry lose a wall in the garage.

Mom: “Hi, honey!” She smiles from behind cat-eye glasses. “What are you doing with that hammer and screwdriver? Wow! I see there’s a hole in the wall.”

Me: “I’m looking for the ancient people that lived here before us.” I smile enthusiastically. “Maybe they left some paintings inside the wall.”

Mom: Well, aren’t you a clever girl! Perhaps someday you’ll be an archeologist. Want me to help you?”

Anyone who knows my mother is now laughing hysterically. When my mom did pull into the driveway that day and caught me attacking the wall, she marched toward me in her pointy-toed high heels. “What the hell are you doing!”

Digging in my home’s garage wall to search for ancient artifacts made perfect sense in my 12-year-old brain, but my parents didn’t see it that way.

Up until that moment, I had no qualms about exploring inside the wall for ancient artifacts, but the look on my mother’s face changed my attitude instantly. So, I did what came naturally. I dropped my tools and ran. Mom didn’t have a chance of catching me in her heels, but I could hear her yelling as I bolted through the neighborhood.

Later, my father squinted at me. As part of my punishment, I had to watch as he spent his weekend reconstructing the wall, patching the hole with wire and spackling, all the while muttering under his breath.

Today, I feel my parents failed in the “teachable moment” department. Honestly, I think as a 12-year-old–alight with ancient history fervor–I was damned gifted, though I didn’t hear my parents bragging to anyone about my brilliance and the possibility that I might one day become a world renowned archeologist.

Mom and Dad could have encouraged me, don’t you think? Perhaps you’ll do better when faced with a “teachable moment” of your own.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wild-horses-on-the-salt-cover-2.jpg

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Can baseball survive a changing world?

Major League Baseball is no longer America’s Pastime. What does that mean for the future of the game?

The folks who run Major League Baseball are scared. Really scared.

First, kids aren’t playing the game anymore. Gone are the days when children would organize a neighborhood game, pretending to be their favorite players, policing the rules themselves, without parents scrutinizing everything from their playing time to their batting and fielding stats and coaches who often care more about winning than nurturing young people. If you don’t believe me, think about the last time you noticed a child walking down the street lovingly clutching a baseball glove. See what I mean?

Don’t get me wrong. Some kids do play baseball. A lot. They participate in travel leagues, sometimes year-round, a practice that often guts youth and high school teams and leads to baseball burnout because the “season” never ends. Children, some even at the pre-teen level, are being convinced they are Major League prospects. While there are certainly a handful of such children, for the most part, Mom and Dad, your kid is not one of them, no matter how much money you throw at their training.

I was an amateur baseball umpire for almost 25 years and I’ve seen participation at youth levels drop precipitously over the years.

Speaking of money, kids in poorer communities can’t afford the baseball gloves and bats and shoes necessary to play, not to mention the fees needed to pay for uniforms, field facilities, and umpires. And often in the inner city their are no baseball fields on which to play.

The other problem is the changing dynamics of childhood. Before digital electronics, kids couldn’t wait to change into their play clothes after school and head outside. I know some of you remember those days fondly, but many of today’s kids simply wouldn’t understand why anyone would want to leave the house. After all, with their unfettered access to social media, video games, and streaming services to distract them, there’s almost no reason to ever venture off the couch.

Another one of baseball’s big problems is the game itself. Unlike football, basketball, and ice hockey that have a lot of action, baseball is slower and much more cerebral. At least it was before scoring became the most important aspect of the game. The preponderance of and importance placed on home runs is killing all those beautiful fielding plays that made baseball brilliant.

So many pitches are going yard, Major League Baseball is altering the ball to make it less bouncy. The new ball will be tested in the low Minors. The league is also tinkering with rules to shorten games.

As a former TV sportscaster and an amateur umpire of almost 25 years, I don’t think there’s anything more exciting than a runner going for a triple. Though a triple play is damn close. And yet for years baseball executives tinkered with the ball to increase scoring. Yes, I know they swear the balls were never juiced, but I don’t believe them. Home runs have soared to ridiculous numbers, which leaves all those fielders standing around doing nothing. That gets pretty boring after a while. By the way, if you’re not sure homers are an issue note that in 2014 4,186 pitches resulted in home runs. In 2019, that number exploded to an all-time record 6,776.

So now, baseball’s bosses are trying something new, albeit at the Minor League level. They are once again changing the ball. Rawlings has “loosened the tension of the first wool winding,” according to a memo from the commissioner’s office. That will slightly reduce the weight of the ball and make it less bouncy, the hope being a reduction in home runs.

But that won’t help solve baseball’s biggest problem: Time. Unlike other sports there is no clock on the diamond. An average MLB game lasts almost three hours and ten minutes. By comparison, an NBA contest averages just two hours and 15 minutes. As our attention spans dwindle, our ability to stay engaged is declining, a situation that is doubly difficult for young people who Major League Baseball needs to survive.

Baseball has already lost its status as America’s Pastime, having been supplanted by football. And, as in all sports, fewer kids are coming out to play. That does note bode well for the future of the games, especially baseball.

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A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

How can I help? Maybe you shouldn’t ask

You might want to rethink that.

 A few weeks back, I had rotator cuff surgery, the second time I’ve undergone the procedure, which surely means my dream of pitching in the Majors is over. Everyone is so nice now that I’m trussed up in a massive sling, unable to do the simplest things. That the afflicted appendage is my right arm just multiplies the misery.

“How can I help?” “Call me if you need anything?” my lovely friends and family members say. And while I know they mean it, somehow, I can never bring myself to ask.

Right before this picture was taken I was hit by three players and suffered a broken vertebrae that laid me up for months. My lovely friends pitched in to help, but I learned some requests were out of bounds.

One reason for my reticence is the memory of the time long ago when I fractured a vertebrae after having been run over by three players while officiating a high school football game. Like today, friends ascended offering their help. I was unable to walk for a short time and was confined to bed, but once I was packed into a brace, I managed to toddle around on my own. Still that was when I really needed help.

“Anything I can do?” a friend said.

Then I made my request. One that I had been burning to ask for weeks. “Please,” I practically begged. “Would you shave my legs?”

Crickets.

Anyone who has ever shaved a body part knows itching is involved if one stops. That no one took me up on my request is perhaps understandable, and now I face similar issues.

What do I need? First, I can’t pull up my pants. A simple problem to rectify, and yet I sense my loved ones might not want to drop everything to run over every time I’m facing that particular challenge.

Then there’s my daily battle with the newspaper. As a former reporter, the thought of getting through the day without checking the news just seems wrong. I’ve been reading a newspaper daily for going on 45 years. The problem, of course, is turning the pages. If you don’t believe me, give that a one-handed try. Anyone want to stand by my side while I read and then turn and crease the pages for me? (And here’s where I admit that I have always had a secret desire to have one of those old-world butler’s who would iron the daily paper for me, pressing out the folds and wrinkles à la Downton Abbey, but I digress.)  

I need someone to help me pour my tea. Anyone interested?

I’m an avid tea drinker, so much so I have regularly made two big pots of tea daily, which is difficult to deal with left-handed. I am often over shooting my delicate, china cup—Drinking tea from a mug is barbaric. Just sayin’.— so my tea ends up spilled everywhere. Maybe the aforementioned butler who presses newspapers could help, but again, my busy friends and loved ones might not be so enamored of the idea of standing by my side and filling my teacup when its empty.

I have often written about the sorry state of my teeth, a condition I blame on my Irish heritage and my love of all things chocolate. I have put many dentists children through college and probably paid for a few vacation homes, as well. So, anyone want to come over and floss my teeth? I thought not.

I could continue complaining about my small, everyday challenges, but I am reminded of a video I saw recently. A lovely young ballerina dances with a troupe, leaping about the stage, all elegance and grace. That the dancer has no arms matters not at all. I think of that young woman every morning as I wrestle my way into my clothes. She inspires me to figure out how to do things on my own in my temporary, one-armed world. So, I will do what I can.

That said, anyone want to shave my legs?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wild-horses-on-the-salt-cover-2.jpg

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Don’t nick the gnome

We met three gnomes on a trip to Australia and invited one to spend the day with us rocking.

The little gnome was hanging out with two of his friends. This was around the time those Travelocity ads were all the rage. You remember the ones where the funny little gnome kept winding up in strange places around the globe?

Now you might think the smart folks at the on-line travel company created the wee guy from scratch, but prior to their ad campaign there was a group in France called the Garden Gnome Liberation Front. (I’m not making this up.) The idea was that people had the right to steal garden gnomes with no intention of returning them to their rightful owners. The mission was to free the gnomes and return them to the wild, where the GGLF believed they rightfully belonged.

I mention this because as I stood over that little patch of gnomes, I had a deep desire to pick the red-capped one up and take him with me. However, as a former Girl Scout and recovering Catholic, I shuddered at the thought of stealing, so instead I knocked on the door.

We were careful to keep the little guy safe, so we made sure he was buckled up.

At that time my sweetie pie and I were on a trek in Australia. We were on an outback expedition as part of the Australian Mineral Symposium, where we got to go mining with all sorts of cool rocking people: professors and miners and mineral enthusiasts, which for a rock collector like me was as close to heaven as I’ll probably ever get. (Did I mention I’m a recovering Catholic?)

When the woman who owned the small hotel where we were staying in Coolgardie opened the door, I asked if I could borrow the little guy for the day.

“It’s nice of ya’ ta ask,” she said in that lovely way Aussies speak. “Lot’s a people just nick ‘em and we never see ‘em again.”

“Oh, no! I promise I’ll bring him back,” I assured her.

We had a full day of rocking ahead. But, of course, we wanted to keep him safe, so we strapped him in a car seat and headed out into the wilderness.

It’s no wonder my gnome friend and I needed a nap after our long day rocking.

Turns out he was quite a good rocking gnome. He wandered around the tailings piles with us, and despite a small spill, he got right up and marched on. He helped me gather lots of lovely gaspeite, a rare bright green mineral the color of a Granny Smith apple.

After a long day of rocking—and an evening of drinking with Australians which takes much intestinal fortitude—I was pooped. My gnome and I needed some shut eye, though somehow he managed to sleep with his peepers open. Lucky for me my sweetie pie is not the jealous type.

The next day I said goodbye to my new friend and put him back with his buddies, so no one could accuse me of niking a gnome.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wild-horses-on-the-salt-cover-2.jpg

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

An Open Letter to Facebook Scammers

Dear, Scammer, if you want my attention, get better at what you do.

Dear Scammer,

By the number of fake Facebook “friends” you send my way, I must conclude that you really want my attention. Well then, you need to get better at this.

First, get your names right. I can’t tell you how many times you’ve sent me men—always older men—with two first names. You know, like Bob John, Bill Steven, Lloyd William. These appellations are a dead giveaway that these people are probably fake.

Then there are the photos you put on these pages. I’m not sure why you think I’d be enticed by men surrounded by little children—kind of creepy—colorful balloons, flowers, and puppies. Not that those things aren’t nice, it’s just that you’re not putting enough imagination into it.  Come on. Take a little time and check out what I like, before you fabricate my dream man.

And speaking of my Mr. Dreamy, why is he so often in a uniform? While I admire and respect those in the military–as well as those cuties in their firefighting gear–the uniform thing is just a cliché. If you were one of my students, I’d give you a C- there for lack of imagination. And can you please stop sending me doctors and widowers? I’m curious as to why you think those guys are especially appealing.

It’s strange that you think a disembodied hand holding a flower would make me jump at friending someone.

Now, get rid of those round headshots. I don’t see many real people going for that look. And when that’s the only thing we see on the page that’s rather suspicious. Not to mention off-putting. That said, your fake folks do nothing but display pictures of themselves in hackneyed situations—the aforementioned children, balloons, flowers and puppies. Again, this does nothing but ramp up the creep factor.

I realize that someone on your end is tasked with supplying fake interests for your fake people, and, if nothing else, I usually get a laugh out of them. Richard Dick: Interests: power-lifting, scrapbooking, motor sports, flower arranging, and long walks on the beach. Really?

I’m not sure why, but I am periodically tempted to make friends with you, Scammer, just to see where our relationship goes. I know you’ll tell me I’m beautiful and that you love me and that you need money to escape a bad situation. And you’ll want my Social Security number and access to my bank accounts, all the while assuring me of your undying love.

Honestly, Scammer, what you do is sad and disturbing and you should be ashamed.

While this stuff is mostly funny, it’s also depressing. I’m guessing there are millions of scammers like you out there, and the only reason for your proliferation is that this approach works! How is that even possible? Who could be sad and lonely enough not to see through your masquerade?

That said, shame on you for taking advantage of those poor people. Can you even look in the mirror? Go ahead. Try it. I dare you. Are you proud of yourself after your day at the office? Or, more likely, in your mommy’s basement?

Here’s an idea. Make your own Facebook page. Let’s see what you’re about. Let’s see how many “friends” you can get sharing your own picture and interests. Methinks, not so many.

Perhaps, you now think I’m cruel, Scammer, but you deserve any derision sent your way. You use people, probably with no thought about the damage you cause.

Your mother would be appalled.

Sincerely,

Anne Montgomery

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

What they don’t tell you about sports

Sports are good for you! They keep you healthy and active!

I have heard and adhered to that mantra my entire life. I don’t remember learning to swim. I started ice skating at five and skiing at eight. When I was 24, I started officiating sports and called football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games, an avocation I practiced for 40 years. When I was 30, I got my first health club membership and I’ve had one ever since. I’ve lifted weights, utilized aerobics equipment, practiced yoga, and been a regular lap swimmer for 35 years. I’m a scuba diver.

I will admit here, I have always been rather smug about working out, mentally tut-tutting those who eschewed exercise. But it seems they have had the last laugh.

You see, I turned 65 last year, right about the time the pandemic hit. Then, my health club shut down, after which I physically fell apart. One day my legs started to hurt for no apparent reason, so I limped off to the doctor.

“See here?” he said, pointing at myriad splotches on my MRI. “Your hamstrings look like old, twisted celery.”

“See here?” The doctor said pointing at an MRI of my damaged hamstrings. But to me it looked like a Rorschach test.

While I did look, all I could see was something resembling a Rorschach test. Still, I took his word for it, which is how I happened to be face down on an examination table with my pants at my knees.

“Um…should I take off my underwear?” I knew where they needed to stick those big needles that were now filled with my very own platelets that had been spun from the blood they’d just sucked out of my arm.

“Well…I think we can work around it,” an assistant said. At which point he bunched up my underwear and gave me a wedgie.

“I’m so sorry,” the doctor said.

I wondered what he meant. Was he sorry I might be embarrassed that my mostly bare bottom was exposed to them or was he sorry to be gazing at a 65-year-old bum? “We’re all professionals here,” I muttered.

The platelets would have to be injected into the spot where my hamstrings were attached. I felt the cold needle tickle my butt. Then, I screamed. All thoughts of me as a tough girl vanished in an instant. The call for fentanyl did nothing. I yelped again as the assistant wiggled the needle about. Someone shoved a squishy football into my hand. I wanted to hit her in the head with it.

“Almost done,” the doctor chirped pleasantly.

“OW…OW…OW!”

“Okay! We’re finished”

I  relaxed despite the burning in my butt.

“Now…let’s do the other one.”

As I continued to scream, I was struck by a thought. If I was a captured a spy, I would have told them anything they wanted to know. State secrets? No problem. The names of my spy friends? Fine. Where to find my children? Probably.

When it was over, I was helped from the table. I felt like two softballs had been lodged in my bottom. I was deposited in a chair, where I squirmed so much the doctor called for more fentanyl.

“The pain will get worse before it gets better,” he said in a cheery tone. “It may take several weeks to feel better.”

I wished I had some James Bondish-type weapon on hand to stick him in the eye.

Again, I couldn’t tell what the doctor was looking at, but when he said I needed rotator cuff surgery again, I thought I might cry.

A short time later, I faced another MRI in a different office. The doctor pointed at the image of my shoulder. “See here?”

I did not, but I let it slide.

“Your rotator cuff is torn.”

“No, wait! I had rotator cuff surgery six years ago on that shoulder. Shouldn’t I have a life-time warranty?” I remembered the operation and the miserable, eight-months rehab and wanted to weep.

Next week, the surgeon will be plying his trade inside my shoulder. And let’s not forget my knees that are annually pumped full of a strange Jello-like substance so I can walk and my arthritic spine that boasts an old fracture and two bulging disks. Is it any wonder that my physical therapist recently discussed putting my name on a parking space at the rehab clinic?

The point, of course, is that most of my medical issues have been caused by sports. Falls on the ice. Twenty-plus years of crouching behind home plate as an umpire where errant foul balls made me feel like a piñata. Repetitive-motion injuries from lap swimming. Four decades of football officiating where players periodically ran me over on their way to the endzone.

Sports are good for me? Apparently, I’ve been misled. And yet, given a second chance, I would do it all again.

That said, I’ll now work on getting better acquainted with my couch.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Kissing: A Brief History

With Valentine’s Day approaching, many of us are filled with thoughts a of romantic love. Kissing is the natural next step, which had me wondering recently where the meeting of lips as a form of romantic expression began.

Some believe that kissing evolved from mothers chewing their food and feeding their babies from their lips, much as birds do. Um…that is if birds had lips.

Many believe the origination of kissing developed from a wholly unromantic source. It seems that in many ancient cultures, mothers, by necessity, chewed their food and then transferred the mashed bits directly into their babies mouths, much as mother birds do today. Historically, Mommy as food processor was a necessity, as one couldn’t just hop down to the local supermarket to pick up a case of baby peas and carrots.

The leap however to romantic kissing remains a tad vague. Originally, folks went around kissing hands and cheeks in a show of respect or fealty. The Romans, especially, were big kissers, though they had rules on how and when you kissed certain people.

Somewhere around the second century, the Kama Sutra was complied. The Indian text, that was the precursor to the best-selling, 1969 book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask, has an entire chapter—that would be Chapter 3, if you’re interested—on kissing. And it’s illustrated, just in case the verbiage confuses you.

Romeo and Juliet were rather fond of kissing, though things didn’t work out so well for them.

Romantic kissing had been around for a while when, near the end of the 16th century, Shakespeare penned what is arguable the greatest love story of all time, the tale of the doomed lovers Romeo and Juliet. “My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand. To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss,” said poor Romeo. We all know how that turned out, though the demise of the young lovers didn’t seem to dissuade others from smooching their hearts out.

While romance novels can be traced back to ancient Greece, the genre as we know it today appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries, and anyone who has ever cracked the spine on one of those babies knows that kissing is a big deal. In fact, it’s an actual plot point: the steamier the buildup to the event the better.

Perhaps it would be safer if we got our kissing from romance novels.

It might surprise you to know that there are cultures around the world that completely eschew kissing, mainly pointing out how dirty our mouths are, since they contain between 500 to 1,000 different types of bacteria. Still, for most of us, the pleasurable aspects of kissing override the inherent ewww factor.

Today, kissing is under assault. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic courtesy of Covid-19, so we are tasked with holding others at arm’s length. Social distancing is keeping our lips seriously separated, and we can’t work up much kissing action from six feet away.

Perhaps, when the virus has run its course, we can return to the lip locks of yore. In the meantime, can anyone recommend a good romance novel?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wild-horses-on-the-salt-cover-2.jpg

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb