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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

Month

May 2011

Trouble … Worry, Worry, Worry

A little white dog keeps hiding and re-hiding his bone.  As the soulful melody plays on, he worries and digs it up, only to bury it again.  This is the Travelers Insurance commercial.  I don’t know why I thought only movie dogs and dogs on television behaved this way.  But this is real behavior attributed to real dogs.  I’ve seen Frankie in action.

The first time I witnessed this, Frankie was pacing back and forth so much I thought he had to pee.  I didn’t see the bone he had tucked in his mouth.  Outside, I watched in fascination as he dug a hole, placed his treasure inside, and shoveled the dirt back with his nose.  Then proceeded to have a sneezing fit.

I called a friend.  “Did you know dogs really do this?”  She knew.  She and her husband had stopped giving their Westie bones because he never ate them.  Instead, he proceeded directly to the backyard.

Since Frankie’s an indoor dog, I’ve found them all over the house.  At the bottom of the laundry basket, behind books on the bottom shelf, between sofa cushions.  Whenever I enter to find books spilled out on the living room floor, I know Frankie’s been digging again.

Photo by P. Hazouri

Having him around has been good for my obsessive compulsive-ness.  It used to be my house was neat and I knew where everything was.  Yesterday, I found a half-chewed rawhide behind the pages of my old high school photo album, along with a shredded corsage from Prom 1986.  Only the ribbon could be salvaged, which is really all I should’ve kept anyway.

Problem is, Frankie’s not like the dog in the commercial.  His compulsion only seems to extend to the burying part, not the digging up part.  Contrary to what everyone says, he does not seem to remember where they are.  Nor does he ever look for them.  Out of sight, out of mind.  If I happen to sit on one, fine.  But I’m certainly not digging in the dirt.  The one outside will probably be unearthed 50 years from now like some old time capsule.  Either way, Frankie’s not worried.

On Optimism

Enough has been said about writers and artists being a pessimistic bunch.  In fact, they are so well known for being depressed, addicted and suicidal that many beginning talents think they have to be down and drunk to enjoy any real creative success!  So, I’m here to talk about that supposed anomaly — the happy artist.

Plenty of creators were positive people.  Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Samuel Johnson (considered one of the most important authors of all time for publishing the Dictionary of the English Language) were all optimists.  Paulo Coelho is a positive Brazilian author, famous for his spiritual teachings and best sellers, including The Alchemist.

Political leaders like Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi were all eternal optimists, along with inventor, Henry T. Ford, and the man whose name will forever be synonymous with “genius,” Albert Einstein.

Roy Lichtenstein's "Sunrise"

Robert Brault, a well known and frequently quoted writer said it best when he said, “After 5,000 years of recorded human history, you wonder, what part of 2,000,000 sunrises doesn’t a pessimist understand?”

In a Newsweek article on optimism it was reported that “researchers have claimed that a positive outlook motivates us to plan for our future and may even have an effect on our long-term physical health.  It’s increasingly clear that your mental outlook can have a big effect on your physical health.”

I’ve been accused of being a Pollyanna, but I don’t really mind.  I’m the kind of person that doesn’t watch the news.  This drives my activist mother crazy.  She believes it’s important to stay informed and get involved.  CNN is on constantly at her house.  But, I can’t live on a diet of murder and mayhem.  I find out about hurricanes when there’s long lines at the grocery store.

I guess I’m sticking my head in the sand, but I was validated by Dr.Andrew Weil’s book Spontaneous Healing.  He recommends “news fasts” as part of his program to a more efficient healing system.  It’s easy to forget we have a choice as to whether we let negative information into our minds.

And for those beginning talents out there, remember what Helen Keller said, “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an unchartered land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”


Calling All Gentlemen!

Hey guys!  Want to know the secret to winning the heart of any woman?  Chivalry.  It’s not dead.  It just needs resuscitation.  It’s an idea that needs a little dusting off.

A knight being armed.

After all, it’s old.  In the Middle Ages, chivalry was all the ideal qualifications of a knight.  13th Century conventions dictated that men should honor, serve, and do nothing to displease ladies and maidens.  Sure, only the wealthiest women could become educated, own property, or work outside the home without being nuns.  But hey, haven’t we always wanted it all?  Equal rights and to be picked up without honking.  Is that too much to ask?

It’s become so foreign to us gals, that we often don’t know how to behave when actually treated like a lady.  Many years ago, a man pulled out the chair for me in a restaurant and I quickly moved to the opposite chair because I thought he wanted mine.

I think I can safely speak for all women, disabled or not, when I say that a simple gesture like opening a door goes a long way.  Coming up to doors in a wheelchair can feel like approaching an obstacle course for the Navy Seals. Continue reading “Calling All Gentlemen!”

Sleepovers

Whenever another relationship ended, I’d tell myself that at least I’d be getting back to my “single sleep.”  It was something, as half a couple, I’d sorely missed and could now look forward to.  There’s nothing like it.  You know what I mean if you’re like me, a healthy sleeper not plagued by insomnia.  If, undisturbed by another’s tossing and turning or snoring (or hey, oftentimes just breathing,) you fall asleep minutes after your head hits the pillow, not to awaken before your alarm sounds the start of a new day.

I’ve enjoyed eight blissful hours a night like this for several years now, but I’m sorry to say I think the party’s over.  You see, my mom’s dog, Frankie, has been staying for sleepovers.  Having recently moved out of my neighborhood, my mother and I are like divorced parents working out a schedule to share custody.

Going to the Beach, Photo by John Pemberton

I’ve come to look forward to walks around my block with Frankie.  We’ve met lots of other dogs and their owners, and we take in the sight and smell of the surf at least three days a week.  Not wanting to give this up, I suggested he stay over every weekend.  My mother was only too happy to get a break from the parenting, and immediately purchased a second dog crate for him to sleep in at my house.

Frankie’s a great sleeper, I’ll give him that.  He doesn’t bark.  He doesn’t whine.  He doesn’t have accidents.  He just sleeps.  His first night there, I crawled into bed shortly after putting him in his crate in the corner of my room.  My cat, Bella, joined me.  Ten minutes later, I heard it.  A soft snore coming from the crate.  Another ten minutes went by and on the other side of me, a second snore, only slightly higher in pitch and with a little nose whistle.  I listened to their harmony.  Their little lungs must be exactly the same size because one’s inhale came two beats after the other’s exhale.  They were perfectly synchronized.  An hour later, they were still at it.  My attempts to nudge Bella quiet had failed.  And Frankie only stopped briefly, when after one loud, human-sounding snort, he woke himself up.  I wonder if there’s such a thing as Dog Sleep Apnea.

Frankie’s snoring, I understood.  He’s a Pekingese and, as such, has a rather pushed in face.  But, Bella’s snores surprised me.  Not only does she have an aristocratic nose, like a Siamese, but I’d never heard her before.  Maybe, I’d never been awake for it, or maybe, she was particularly exhausted after being on high alert all day with a dog in the house.  Either way, six hours is my new average on the weekends.

The going rate for companionship.

Stocking the Pond

“Did you write today?” a well-meaning, non-writer friend will ask me.  This brings all my neuroses and self-doubt to the surface.  My writing coach and mentor has learned to answer the question with,”You mean, did I type today?”  Brilliant.

You see, typing and writing are two different things.  Typing is sitting down to hit letters on a keyboard.  Writing involves thinking.  It can be done anywhere, even miles from a keyboard.  Most folks are of the opinion that writers should write every day.  That’s why I love this distinction.  I don’t type every day.  When a project I’m working on is going particularly well, I do.  But otherwise, I may be doing any number of things.  Like the laundry, walking the dog or re-organizing my fridge.  But, I’m thinking about my writing all the time.  Mulling over a phrase, searching for a word, dreaming up an ending.  I’m here to say: that counts.

Also, the answer will probably come to you in the shower.  Or driving.  Or washing the dishes.  Doing anything routine or repetitive allows the mind to stop thinking logically, or “how-to,” and start thinking creatively.

And the best way to ensure that the perfect phrase, word or ending comes to you is to stock the pond.  I’m talking about “filling the well,” but that’s might be considered a cliche’ to people working in the creative arts, so I’ll use the less often heard “stocking the pond.”  The idea, as explained by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way (if you’re a regular reader, you know I’m a fan,) is that writers, poets, artists, or creators in general, use images from experience to serve as a muse for their art.  Creating draws on this well of images.  Life experiences fill it up.

Writer Richard Ford, in his New York Times essay, advises that living life comes first.  Writing second.  In fact, he likes to take large chunks of time between projects to recharge his muse.  This can mean anything from watching daytime television to visiting an amusement park.  Personally, I prefer the latter to the former for stocking the pond.  Like Ms. Cameron, I would advise doing something, rather than nothing.

So, if anyone’s counting, that’s about 350 words for today.  Tomorrow, I’m going to the movies.

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