As a writer, I’m often asked about my journey – how I got started, what kind of writing I do, what influenced me, etc. Truth be told, I find it both valuable, and enjoyable to revisit those beginnings. Not only does it remind me why I started doing what I do, it allows me to reflect on where I’ve been, and to focus on where I’m going.
I grew up in a small town, working, cooking and eating in Ricardo’s, my family’s restaurant. It was in that one level, no frills, terrazzo tiled kitchen where I developed my enterprising spirit, working side by side with my family. A memory home, that hallowed ground has been a driving force in my life, and one I revisit often.
Fuel for my imagination, it’s warm, comforting, and takes me back to my roots, especially when I’m running low on entrepreneurial gas, something an author like me needs in abundance.
Ricardo’s was a cool, Mom and Pop retro-style diner. Only at the time, it wasn’t yet retro! In true 1970s fashion, it sported lots of brown and Crayola orange, from the countertops to the paneled walls, to the vinyl covered booths. Design crimes and all, it’s a place that’s part of my soul, and though long gone, lives on graciously in my memory, and now, I’m thrilled to say, in my first romantic suspense novel, A Mighty Good Man.
What a privilege to grow up in such a place! We worked hard, and that ethic stays with me to this day. From the time I was about ten, my brother and I worked alongside my parents, aunt and uncle, cousins and the help, making, on a large scale, tantalizing, from scratch fare, such as spaghetti sauce, (you have to use pork bones), wedding soup, and bread stuffing. Lots of Saturdays, starting at 7am, we did heavy prep, mixing up ingredients in Rubbermaid tubs; pounds of butter, ground meat, celery, onions. We cooked in cast iron and stainless steel cauldrons half my height, stirred with wooden paddles that could’ve doubled as oars. I learned how to work the grill, make salads, and turn last night’s chicken special into today’s soup du jour.
And that was just the food.
The people who worked there were larger than life too, and also live on fondly in my memory. Cooks, waitresses, busboys, dishwashers; men, women, young, old, and in between—they ran the gamut from high school student to retiree, from vagabond to workhorse. Some came and never left, some worked one shift and never bothered to return—characters, all of them.
I remember hanging out at the counter with my Dad for hours, while he drank coffee and talked with customers. I would sit, fascinated by the adult conversation and the things I heard, and shouldn’t have heard. A unique and well-rounded education was mine for the taking on topics as varied as the economy, the local steel mill, sports, hunting, the president, politics, family, and religion.
Regulars inhabited the space, claiming it as their own; they made it a hub in the community, not just as a place to eat great food, but as a place to connect, to complain, to celebrate, and to come together.
The food, the people, the work, the experience—it was delicious, joyous, exhilarating, exhausting, crazy, colorful, strange, and maddening, but above all, unique; so much so, we would often laugh and say we could write a book.
I bought a house a few months ago, and as a proud new home owner, I was on still on the honeymoon, filled with ideas about improvements and projects I wanted to tackle.
Enter TAG. I now know him, and I bet, if you own a home, you do too. He’s an unwanted guest that will not be denied. Many years ago, my father, a wise man, as well as a home and business owner, told me about his visits from TAG. (a.k.a. Turd Above Ground)
That night, his words came back to me with haunting clarity.
After having a relaxing day at home, reading the book my daughter had given me as a gift, and eating dinner with her and my boyfriend, I told him about some water I’d found earlier that day on the floor of my basement, near one of the floor drains. Or, rather, the evidence of it – a sopping wet throw rug I keep in front of the washing machine. At the time, I’d gotten my flashlight, checked the ceiling. It was dry. Had it come from the washer? I had no idea, and I was in the middle of making dinner, so I forged ahead, figuring I’d ask my boyfriend about it later.
My boyfriend is a general contractor who possesses an uncanny ability to fix things. When I told him about it, he raised an eyebrow in his calm, knowing way, almost as if he knew something I did not. He instructed me to flush the toilet, and run water in the bath tub.
Minutes later, he yelled to me from the basement. Stop! I ran to join him, while my brain tried to process what I was seeing erupting from another floor drain. Denial is a funny thing, isn’t it? Was that rusty water, I asked, almost as if I said it aloud, I could make it so.
No. It was TAG.
Unmitigated horror filled me as the seriousness of what was happening hit me. This was bad. Running upstairs to escape the smell, I located the home warranty information I’d been given at the closing, and called the 800 number, pushed the appropriate numbers to get me to the correct menus (you didn’t think I talked to a person, did you?), and placed my service call.
At this point, I feel it necessary to clarify that I’m not squeamish; I’ve raised a child, I’ve had numerous pets, and I worked in my family’s restaurant business growing up. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, and I have, many times. But this situation was proving beyond my capabilities.
Over the next few days, I learned more about pipes, sewer lines and plumbing than I’d ever wanted to know. I listened to my boyfriend’s advice; however, this particular problem was beyond his fixing scope, unfortunately. He was, however, at my side every step of the way, and for that I’m eternally grateful. I Googled and You Tubed my way through the internet, reading and watching more information than I’d ever known existed on the topic. Opinions and prices varied wildly on issues such as root killers, pipes and camera videos. My mind raced. I couldn’t sleep. What if I had to replace it? I knew it could be thousands of dollars and take days to repair.
Captain’s Log, Day 1
I had to leave work to meet the plumbers the home warranty company sent. They snapped on their black nitrile gloves and went to work, their big metal snake shimmying and rattling to some unknown tune. Again, the smell was so repulsive I fled. Thirty minutes later, I was told I had tree roots growing in the line, and guess what? The home warranty doesn’t cover it. Big surprise. I was told the line was open, to get it camera scoped, and that the roots would come back, a common occurrence in the spring time. I paid the fee and they departed, leaving me to clean up a mess I’m not sure I can properly describe in mixed company. That was the low point. The substances I cleaned from the floor and the walls, along with the creatures–yes, you read that right–made my skin crawl.
Worms. Did I mention some of them were alive?
And the smell. An unholy, godforsaken, dehumanizing smell emanating literally, from the bowels of my home, seemed to permeate my nose, my mouth, my very skin. If I’d showered for three days, I don’t think I’d have felt clean. Suffice to say, it was Andy Dufresne escaping from Shawshank prison through the tunnel all over again.
Still can’t sleep.
Captain’s Log, Day 2
Since I was price shopping, I called a local company. The woman on the phone told me proudly that they didn’t charge by the hour, but by the job. That sounded promising. I needed a camera scope, I said. They did that? Great. See you tonight.
I came home from work, and evidence that the line still wasn’t clear greeted me from the basement floor.
Plumber No. 2 snaked the line yet again, scoped it with a camera, and announced the alleged ‘good’ news. Since the line was in pretty good condition, I would able to put in a liner – to the tune of $9,500. Did I say the low point was cleaning up the floor? I burst into tears.
Still can’t sleep.
Captain’s Log, Day 3
The drain is open. I’m taking short showers, and checking the drains constantly, creeping up on them, afraid of what I’m going to find. All is well. For now.
Enter plumber No. 3, an old hand who both my boyfriend and I had used at different points in our lives. I’d wanted to go to him in the first place, but the home warranty dictates that their contractors must be used. My boyfriend had spoken with him over the course of this ordeal, and filled him in about what was going on. Did I mention I hadn’t slept well in three days?
I called him. He chided me, telling me I should’ve called him in the first place. Plumbers apparently have egos. Who knew? Bewildered, sleep deprived, and sick with dread about what fixing this might cost, I tried to explain the events of the last few days and found myself groping for words. Phrases like, ‘raw sewage’, ‘home warranty’, and ‘digging it up’ punctuated the conversation. We agreed on a time for him to come that evening.
It occurred to me was living in some sort of alternate reality; office admin by day, plumber whore by night.
Plumber No. 3 came. He observed with an experienced eye, asking few questions, except for me to run water, flush the toilet, and the like. He eyeballed the drains, which mercifully, were clear at this point. And pronounced, in not so many words, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
I hugged him and praised all higher powers. Truly. He gave me a few suggestions about maintenance, and we emerged from the basement, friends and comrades, our bond forged indelibly as we each of us soldiered on in the war against TAG that every home owner wages.
I’ll bear the scars from this battle proudly. I earned them. And because, at the end of the day—wait for it; you knew it was coming—shit happens.
So, what have I learned, and why am I blogging about this? Common sense, in the form of an older, experienced plumber, will win the day. I still love being a homeowner. And about TAG? My father passed about ten years ago, and in the moment of crisis, his words came back to me. He used to make us all laugh so hard, and I almost felt like he was there with me, commiserating. So, thanks Dad!
Also, this blog is for anyone who’s ever felt overwhelmed, uninformed and intimidated by repair men, not to mention short on cash for serious home repairs. You are not alone. Also, this is for anyone who wonders what writers do in their spare time. <grin> Collect experiences!
And, I am a storyteller at heart. I sincerely hope I’ve been able to entertain you with my folly. And who knows? As upsetting as the whole experience was, it’s replete with emotion and strife, perfect for me, as a writer, to tap into when I want a character to suffer, say, by finding themselves in a deep, dank hole in the Earth, clawing through dirt, and coming up with . . . worms.
“May your lines be clear, your position always upwind, and TAG never darken your door.” –A Brand New Proverb
If you’re part of my Mailing List or my Street Team, you know I’ve been working on a special article about German Shepherd rescues. I’ve always been an animal lover, and I was inspired to learn more about rescues when I created the character of Tan, the German Shepherd rescue in THE WATCHER, Book 2 in the Crossing Realms paranormal romance series.
One of my favorite things to do as a writer is to talk with people who are passionate about what they do. It’s contagious! I’ve talked with an expert, and heard from many of my readers, who’ve shared their amazing stories about German Shepherds. (Scroll down to the bottom of this post to read them all!) Through it all, I’ve learned, enjoyed, and discovered, sometimes shedding tears, and other times, laughing out loud. But it’s all touched my heart.
I want to thank all of these generous people, who shared their time and experience with me about these truly majestic animals, enabling me to make this article possible.
Without further adieu, this is why she rescues German Shepherds…
The dogs were barking happily when Linda Lamek Healy, long time German Shepherd, and all around animal lover and Foster for Heidi’s Legacy Dog Rescue, answered the phone. She asked me to hold on a minute, and with a few simple words, calmed and quieted them. Instantly, I was impressed with her easy, yet firm manner, and I knew I would have the pleasure of talking with an old hand.
Indeed. Linda, a retired social worker, has been rescuing dogs since she was a child, bringing home strays, and she’s been around German Shepherds just as long. Linda explained why she loves the breed so much. “They’re very loyal, protective, and make people feel safe. Even the calmest one, if they sense a threat, will protect their owners if they are in trouble.”
Linda knows this firsthand, as one of her precious ‘pack’ protected her when she needed it. When she rescued him, Roman had been terribly abused, and suffered health problems from over breeding. But she was able to nurse him back to health. One night, sensing trouble, he shot through her screen door to chase a burglar who was trying to break into her Jeep. Mission accomplished! Way to go Roman!
“I’ve been in love with Shepherds forever,” Linda said. Such a special breed of dog needs just as special of an owner. “They’re bigger dogs, they require patience, and I feel, a more experienced owner,” she explained.
She’s been fostering dogs for Heidi’s for four years, and currently, she’s fostering seven. In addition, she personally has four dogs. Wow! “I really feel it’s what I was meant to do my whole life,” she said.
“The dogs are my life,” Linda said, and I have nothing but admiration and respect for the labors of love she performs daily for these amazing animals. “It’s very fulfilling. I foster a lot of senior dogs with medical conditions, such as mange, malnutrition and hip displaysia. Many have also been abused.”
Her day starts at 5am, and usually, Linda has the dogs settled for the night around 7pm. Over the course of the day, she feeds them, brushes them, provides medical care, and cleans, vacuuming and mopping floors several times a day. “Because I’ve fostered so many dogs, and with the veterinarian’s guidance, I’ve learned so much about the dogs’ medical needs. If it’s possible, we feel they’re better off at home, versus in a dog hospital.”
As one can imagine, the condition many of the dogs are in when they get to Heidi’s is heart wrenching. Many are sick, have been abandoned, abused and severely neglected. Enter the Foster – an angel in disguise, who accepts and cares for these animals at what may be the lowest point in their lives.
Linda feels blessed to share many success stories, which she does routinely on her Facebook page. Saber is one such success story. When he came into her life, he had no hair on him except for on his ears, and weighed a mere 49 pounds. Now, he’s a furry long hair, weighing in at 87 pounds.
A lot of love, hard work and planning goes into each and every one of successes like these. Over the last year, Linda had fostered over fifty dogs, caring for them until they’re ready to be adopted. Obviously, getting them to that point is often expensive, as veterinarian bills, medicine and food is costly. “I go through 120 pounds of food a week,” Linda explained.
To offset that cost, Linda sets up a table weekly at one of the Pet Supermarkets in St. Petersburg. Donations to Heidi’s Legacy are gratefully accepted, and customers receive a discount on their order. It also enables Linda to get some of the high quality food she so desperately needs for her fosters.
As well, Heidi’s participates in, and hosts numerous fundraising events throughout the year. One such event is the annual Gulfport’s Get Rescued event, sponsored by the Gulfport Merchant’s Association, which was just held in late February. As one of the largest animal rescue events in the state, all profits benefit participating non-profit rescue groups. “Not only is it one of the most important fundraisers for Heidi’s all year, financially, it serves to raise awareness, and it’s also a lot of fun.”
Thinking of adopting a rescue? Linda explained Heidi’s application process is rigorous. In fact, some of the organization’s volunteers devote their time exclusively to accepting applications and screening applicants. Part of the contract includes Heidi’s ‘following’ the dogs. “We want to see pictures and progress. And fortunately, some of the owners are close by, and I get to see the dogs in person,” Linda said.
“Depending on the condition they’re in, some fosters stay only days,” Linda said. “Others, I’ve had for months. I have a good instinct about the dogs, and about which one will go best with which person.”
According to statistics posted at Heidi’s, “between 6-8 million dogs and cats end up in animal shelters in the United States each year. (HSUS estimate)
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
BECOME A FOSTER – Clearly, being a Foster is a huge commitment, and Heidi’s, as well as shelters in your area, are always looking for reliable, caring Fosters.
The bottom line for Linda? “There’s always a dog I wish I had room for.”
ADOPT A RESCUE – Straight from Heidi’s website, because I can’t say it any better: “Make Adoption Your First Option! A simple solution to the national pet overpopulation problem…yet effective. If we all adopted just one, there would be very few to save. And talk to others about adopting dogs instead of buying them. Adopting instead of shopping will save thousands of dogs from being euthanized in shelters every day. Every dog bought in pet store or from breeder means another dog in the shelter dies. Sadly, a dog is put down approximately every 9 seconds in the United States.”
MAKE A DONATION – Monetary donations are always needed, of course, but many other items are needed as well. Linda explained. “We always need dog food, used linens, old bedspreads, sheets, towels, paper towels, Clorox, Laundry detergent, Pinesol, Lysol, vacuum cleaners, mops and other cleaning supplies.”
BE A RESPONSIBLE PET OWNER – Plan for the care of your pet. Who will take care of your dog if you can’t? Think beyond the immediate; don’t make an impulsive decision. Get a pet that makes sense for your circumstances and lifestyle. For example, if you’re older, getting a puppy may not be the best choice. Have your pet spayed or neutered. Training, exercise, good nutrition and keeping an ID tag on your pet at all times are also very important. Above all? Love your pet, and you’ll be loved in return.
SHARE THE LOVE – Enjoyed this post? Please share it! Follow your local rescue organization on Facebook and other social media. Share their posts! You never know where it will lead. <<Follow Heidi’s Legacy on Facebook>>
MORE ABOUT HEIDI’S LEGACY DOG RESCUE
From Heidi’s website, www.heidislegacydogrescue.com – Heidi’s Legacy Dog Rescue is dedicated to rescue and placement of unwanted companion animals. Based in Florida, Heidi’s Legacy has helped thousands of companion animals find loving forever homes. These are wonderful loving animals that often only need love, compassion and training to make them an incredibly awesome family member and best friend.
Heidi’s Legacy was established in 2002 as an all breed rescue in honor of Heidi, a marvelous German Shepherd that was abandoned by her original owners and left to die in the country. Sadly Heidi died shortly after her arrival with us but we have dedicated our lives to saving others just as lovable and just as deserving as Heidi was. Read Heidi’s Story.
Founded by Lori Hoffman, Heidi’s Legacy is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization staffed entirely by volunteers that LOVE and RESPECT animals. If a life can be saved, we will do what needs to be done. Our goal is to save as many lives as possible so they can enrich the lives of their new adoptive families as they do ours.
STORIES FROM MY READERS ABOUT SOME AWESOME GERMAN SHEPHERDS
I want to thank each and every one of my readers who took the time to share their stories and pictures about awesome German Shepherds that have touched their lives. Some are happy, some are sad, all touched my heart. You put the cherry on top of this post 😊 Without further adieu, I invite you to read on!
HONDO – story shared by Debby
We had a German Shepherd called Hondo. He worked with my husband and was a state police canine. I am not sure what you would like to know, but Hondo had many quirks and loved his job.
He was a state police dog and was very intelligent and quite quirky. He made up games when he was bored. He would run and jump and try to catch dust from the air reflected by lights. When he was outside, he would run from one of the fence line to the other. leaving a gully in between two built up mud areas at each end. My own dog would come in with her feet wet but Hondo would be covered in mud. He was very possessive of the cruiser and hated to let anyone in. I actually think he would have helped someone rob our house though. He was an excellent tracker and found a four year old boy who had been lost for almost a day. He found many bad guys as well. In fact, he liked that so well, he had to go back to training because what he would do is go into a warehouse and find the guy and bite him and then come back to his handler. The bad guy would think he was safe and the dog would leave. They sent him back in to search and he did the same thing. He did that so many times that the guy gave up. Another time, he was set to guard a prisoner in the cruiser. The prisoner tried to escape and Hondo grabbed him and pulled him half way into the back seat. The guy was yelling for help. He promised not to move after that. He was an amazing dog. He lived with us and was very loving but not when he was in his cruiser. When my husband dressed, he would wait at the door.
DESTINY – story shared by Colleen C.
My family had a long haired German Shepard named Destiny. She was a very loving and protective member of our family. The most interesting thing about her was that she loved to play soccer! That dog would use her paws to bat the ball back and forth and run forward! I had never seen anything like it. She loved playing with that ball daily. Very talented!
BUDDY – story shared by Ryan Jo Summers
I have a bittersweet GSD story. My family had two when I was young, though they both died before I could form any strong memories of them. I knew some from the local police force and admired them as incredible, beautiful animals.
I spent many years as a veterinary technician and working in a boarding kennel, later buying my own boarding kennel. I was privileged to know several great shepherds when I could borrow them from their owners.
My bittersweet story is this, going back to late 1980’s. I was working as a vet tech at a Michigan clinic. An older couple brought in their new GSD puppy, Buddy, for his first vaccines and check up. He was a lovely black and tan pudgy bundle of fur. He was going to be an enormous dog when he matured. His owners were smaller in stature and strength. They carried Buddy in a plastic tote bag. The vet and I advised them to start training Buddy now to walk on a leash and develop manners, as he would grow quickly. Oh, they couldn’t put a leash and collar on him, they insisted, he was too small. Might I point out he was already, at six or seven weeks old, a healthy and stout fifteen pounds at least. We gave them literature about training puppies and reminded them he would grow and needed to learn manners while he was small. Oh no, they insisted.
Three weeks later, Buddy and his parents returned. This time he was in a basket, and barely staying inside. He wanted out. He was a robust 25-35 pounds now, and growing fast. He had no manners yet, fighting us over being held still for exam and vaccines. Again, we both urged the owners he was growing, and going to be a big boy. Now or never.
Three weeks later, Buddy came back on a leash, and fighting it. His owners hated it. It was horrible. Dreadful. He yanked them all over the sidewalk and waiting room and exam room. He had no clue what any commands were when the vet and I tried basic obedience words. Again, we implored the owners to enroll him in obedience classes. No, those were cruel places, can’t have that.
When Buddy was six months old, he dragged his owners in and we had him neutered. The hope was to settle the rambunctious pup down.
Two months later, Buddy returned. His owners wanted him euthanized, put to sleep. Aghast, I asked why. He was rowdy and never listened to them. They could not walk him or handle him or do anything with him.
I begged to take him, stating I could work with him. I offered to buy him, how much did they want? I implored them to reconsider.
They were firm, he was out of control and needed to be put to sleep. I begged the veterinarian to not go through with it.
Alas, the form was signed, the money paid, the owners left and the doctor and I sadly put a healthy, friendly, outgoing, rawboned, beautiful, intelligent Shepherd youngster to sleep. His only crime was having stupid owners.
That was nearly thirty years ago and I still remember Buddy. I still see him, cute as stuffed bear, riding in that plastic orange polka dot tote bag. I remember pleading for his life to owners who had ignored six months of pleading from the vet and I. I remember the rage and helplessness I felt as I held this great animal and watched his young life slip away for no reason whatsoever.
Ever since then, in my storied career of working with dogs and people, I have retold Buddy’s tragic story, and used it as an instrument to urge others with similar breeds to train early, train consistently, and educate themselves as much as possible. I knew one gentleman, who after I suggested he research the origin of his breed, was amazed and finally understood why his Labrador Retriever was always finding balls and sticks to bring back to him. I would like Buddy’s short life and unfair death to be useful to help others avoid the same fate. Knowledge is power, and sometimes knowledge is a life-saver.
DUKE – shared by Beverly Laude
My childhood friend & neighbor had a German Shepherd named Duke (popular name back in the 1960’s for a GS). An elderly lady from a very prominent family in town came to their house to visit.
When she went to ring the doorbell, Duke decided to snap at her. When he did, his teeth got caught in the lady’s girdle. We watched the whole show from across the street & were ROFL.
Duke was notorious for things like this. Thanks for reminding me of fun times with Duke!
PRINCESS – shared by Linda
I grew up with German shepherds. Actually crawled into their den and played with the 6-9 pups (according to the year, the number was never the same) when we were “pups”, my brothers and I.
We were raised on a ranch in Montana, back in the days when a ranch was a ranch, and next to the foreman’s house, there was an old dog hutch, that used to be on the back of a pick-up, where the two guard dogs slept. Their straw bed was changed when the calves’ was, and it was always an event when the bitch bore her pups. She also accepted us toddlers as part of her pack of pups, and we would squirm in the straw bedding with those delightful puppies whenever we managed to slip Mom’s distracted surveillance. She must have had a helluva time getting all the dust and straw out of our clothes and our hair!
My little brother, always the one to taste something new, even ate dog food, the dry crunchy kind, with them to be like Princess. He showed the puppies how, I guess, and Mom would certainly had fits if she’d known! He would have been between two and three years of age, and I between four and five, since this was the time period when our youngest brother was born, keeping Mom busy…
Can remember her once recounting, also, about a time after sunset, when she was taking a quick walk along the path/road in front of the foreman’s house, and heard an almost silent thumping gallop coming at her from behind. Realizing that our German Shepherd guard dogs might not have recognized her at once, she stopped and started speaking softly, “Good boy, nice girl” to them as she turned around slowly. As soon as they realized who she was, they immediately stopped the hunt-mode and started bouncing and wagging. However, she always said that they would probably have downed her silently, no fuss or barking, just business, if she hadn’t spoken. Excellent guard dogs! So loyal to family!
JOE – shared by Pat Moore
We had a stray German Shepard that took up at our house. Our sons were about 10 & 13. They were outside playing under our oak tree. They named the dog Joe. I was washing dishes and looking out the window that looked out over the back yard. Our neighbors (lived up the street) had a German Shepard that they kept on a thick chain. When I looked I saw their dog at the back of our yard. He saw the boys and charge them. Joe jumped up and attacked the other dog (who was bigger than he was). I ran outside at the same time an insurance salesman jumped out of his car in our drive-way. He grabbed the boys baseball bat (sitting next to the garage door). He attacked the dogs to get them away from the boys. He drove off the other dog. I was so thankful (sending up prayers the whole time) that he saw what was happening as he drove down the road.
I doctored Joe and made sure there weren’t any serious injuries. He had a lot of blood on him but it was from the other dog. Needless to say, Joe had a home for life. That afternoon our neighbor came down & demanded we pay the vet bills for his dog. My husband told him there was no way. That his dog had charged our children. If it hadn’t been for Joe he would have hurt the kids. He also told the neighbor that he better be glad we weren’t filing a lawsuit against him for endangering our children when he had a vicious dog on the loose. Furthermore, if the dog had hurt our children we would be owning everything he owned. The man left in a huff, never spoke to us again. No big loss there. It wasn’t long before we noticed their dog wasn’t there anymore.
When we had to move we gave Joe to my mother’s friend. She was a widow and she wanted Joe for protection. He lived out the rest of his life as her companion and “lap dog”. He slept at the foot of her bed and no one was allowed near her unless she told him they were ok. My children are now in their 40’s and we all still love that dog and have fun feelings for his protectiveness. I thank God he was with the boys that day. The other dog only saw the boys & didn’t see Joe. He was laying about 3 feet from where the boys played.
BRAVO – shared by Natalya Khamone
I had a gorgeous German Shepherd named Bravo. We had him as a puppy when I was about 5 years old and he grew old with us. I loved that dog. My favorite memory of him was on a hot day when my dad would spray him with the water hose and he would run across the yard trying to hide but he secretly loved it. A minute later, we’d see him run across the yard to hide on the other side but held his head up in the air as the water sprayed him. One day, Bravo stepped on a nail in the garage and was limping for days. I remember laying on the floor crying because I felt so bad that he was in pain. He was such a loyal dog. When I was a teen, Bravo was getting too old and sick. My father gave him to a cousin and he told me he went to a house with a bigger yard so he would have more room. I never knew what became of him but I will always hold him in my heart. German Shepherds are the best, most loyal, honest animals on this Earth!
German Sheperds are wonderful pets. Also I found that strays are even more protective than most pets.
‘BOY’– shared by Vicki Burton
Many year ago, as a private investigator, I visited a residence out in the country. These folks had several dogs. All were happy, healthy, and well-fed except one; the shepherd. He was chained in the sun with no shade, no food, and no water. You could count his ribs. I cried. Later that day, I went back and asked these people why the dog was treated so. They just looked at me as if I’d just sprouted a third eye in my forehead. The woman told me I could have him if I wanted him. I loaded him up in my little compact car and traveled over 30 miles to my home in another city. I fed him, and fed him, and fed him. He gained weight. I bathed him almost every night in the bathtub. He had full run of the house. Unfortunately, he was a problem child. When I entered the house after a long day at work and called his name, he would cower and pee on himself and whatever piece of furniture he was on. But we managed. I can say that I gave that boy a few good years in life.
MINCA, HONEY AND OREO – shared by Steven Epstein
I went out for coffee and there was the North Shore animal league truck with all these dogs and cats on it. Since Killer died 2 days before my wife was heart broken. I went on the truck (December 9, 2015). I walked to the back of the truck and I locked eyes with this beautiful gorgeous adorable puppy named Minca who was 9 weeks old. She looked at me with her huge puppy dog eyes. Another man was debating whether to adopt her but I jumped right in and said to the assistant please give me the papers to fill out. I paid for her and brought her home to meet the wife and my other dog Oreo, who is a pointer pit bull mix age 7. They hit it off right away and 13 months later are the best of friends. We renamed Minca and call her Honey. She loves the name and responds on command! Honey is a German Shepard, Ridgeback, Dachshund mix who came from the Cayman Islands. She was born October 1,2015.
Enclosed are a couple of pictures of Honey and my other dog Oreo.
It’s my pleasure to welcome fellow paranormal romance author Tracey Wood today. Her inspiration for writing paranormal stories may surprise you. Read on…if you dare.
My mother brought me up as a single parent. She split from my father when I was a small child. My Nana passed away when I was three or four, and my mother took it very hard. She suffered with very bad depression for a number of years and never really got over it. When I was around eight or nine, my mother started to dabble with a ouija board and tarot cards.
I don’t know if it was connected, but I began to see things in my bedroom. It might have been a child’s imagination, but I really did see toys lift and move, on their own. I had a heavy fairy-tale book that sat on the top of a box of toys at the side of my wardrobe. I saw the book lift, move forward, away from the box, then it dropped to the floor.
My mother came rushing into the room because the noise was so loud. I told her what had happened, but she did the normal, parent thing. She didn’t believe me! This happened a few more times, and on the last occasion my mother was just coming to check on me and was about to open my door when the bang, of the book falling, happened. She opened the door and looked at me. I was looking at the book which was over the far side of the room. She looked from me to the book and back again. I wouldn’t have had time to get back into bed, and she knew it. She asked me if I was all right, to which I nodded. She asked if I was sure and I nodded again. I wasn’t scared; I was puzzled. Unlike other occurrences, this didn’t scare me.
On a number of occasions, I saw a dark shape of a man standing watching me at the end of my bed, and I was literally frozen with fear. Looking back, I can still see the dark shape, and it is something that will stay with me forever. He was wearing a tall hat; I could see the shape of it, but I never saw any facial features or clothes. By standing how he did, he seemed menacing and I think this is what scared me the most. I ended up sleeping with the light on and again I don’t think my mother believed me.
Other things happened which I can probably put down to my imagination. But I would probably say that the reason I write paranormal stories is because of my own experiences and my mother’s interest in the paranormal. I have always been interested in things that do literally go bump in the night!!
After almost losing her life in a vicious, bloody attack, Kat Shaw, a thirty-something divorcee, discovers that there are such things as monsters. And the predator who attacked her is not human. She starts to develop unusual skills that have murderous consequences. And she becomes an unwilling witness to multiple, brutal murders, seen through the eyes a killer. Thrown into a battle of Good vs. Evil, she falls in love with two men who are not what they seem. While her attacker stalks her and continues to murder the innocent, she has to find the inner strength to take on and fight the demons from hell—to protect her family and friends while also trying to save her life.
MEET TRACEY WOOD
Tracey A Wood lives in Staffordshire, in the United Kingdom. She has been married for over thirty years and has two children. One of her boys lives at home due to being disabled; the other has flown the coop. She has three cats that are her babies, and she talks to them all of the time. Funny thing is they don’t answer back.
She loves snowboarding, skiing, jumping out of aeroplanes and bungee jumping. Well, that is when other people are doing it. She prefers to have her nose in a book or to be writing one. She also loves to people watch, which her husband is always telling her to stop doing. She has a job that she enjoys and works full time. Although if she won the lottery, that might change! She also has a very good imagination.
In 2014, she decided to take the bull by the horns and send her manuscript to Soul Mate Publishing. She feels so privileged to have her book published, as this is the first one that she has written. It has made her dream of being a published author a reality. Her philosophy is, life really is too short to wait, you’ve got to go for it. She is still working full time and is also working on another book in her limited spare time. Her favourite saying is ‘Everything happens for a reason’.
Her books are fast paced and centered on a female lead who finds an inner strength after being thrown into situations that are beyond her control.
The park was empty at this time of night. All the children had gone home hours ago. The nights were getting colder and the evening air bit through my clothes, making me shiver. A light dew clung to my hair and skin as the darkness closed in around me, shrouding me from the main road.
After a long day at work, I made my way along the manmade path. It was a good shortcut taking fifteen minutes off my journey. I would soon be home, safe and warm.
What to have for dinner? Hmm. Pizza! Yeah, I’ll dial a pizza. Treat myself. Why not?
Happy with my decision, I carried on my way.
Pulling my jacket collar up around my neck, I tried to beat the cold and the shiver running up my spine.
A sharp pain shot through my head, stunning me, and suddenly I was flying across the path. My forehead hit the ground with an audible thump. Another powerful flash of pain. Black blotches blurred my vision as I tried to focus on my surroundings.
I attempted to get up, but something struck my back, flattening me to the ground. The wind rushed from my lungs. I couldn’t move! A heavy weight sat on my back, holding me down. I struggled to draw enough air into my lungs. Something sharp penetrated my back, then my arms and the top of my leg. It was pure agony!
What’s happening? Have I been stabbed?
Tucking my flailing hands under my body, I attempted to get up, a silent scream trapped inside me, but the weight held me in place.
Snaking my body, I wriggled across the compact soil of the path, attempting to pull myself forward. It was no use. I couldn’t even get to my hands and knees.
My clothes were ripped from my back as the onslaught continued.
The pain slowly dulled, even though I was still at the mercy of my attacker. My heart pounded with fear as this predator snatched at my body. I was shaken violently from side to side. My gut told me my attacker was male. He was dominant, strong, and overpowering.
Oh God, this can’t be happening. No, please. I don’t want to die!
Glancing around frantically for a weapon, I realized I still had my keys in my hand. Without thinking, I slashed them behind my back with as much force as I could. They bit into something soft. Warm fluid flowed over me.
I had hurt him and possibly made him angrier. This unseen person was going to do the unthinkable. He was going to violate me, rob me of my life, or both. I desperately needed to get away from this monster. But how? I couldn’t fight back. Damn it; I couldn’t even move.
Nausea washed over me as my body weakened, my life draining away. A dark mist clouded my mind, consuming me, consuming my thoughts. I was going to die here in a lonely, dark park in the middle of London. I would never see my family and friends again.
Why? Why? I want to live. Help me; please help me, someone!
As if this monster had heard my silent plea, the shaking suddenly stopped. The weight lifted slightly, and I could breathe. Relief washed over me.
Had the attack finished? Did he think I was dead?
I lay still, faking death, struggling not to take deep, gulping breaths. I fought the panic pumping through my body.
I became aware of a stroking sensation on my back, a light caress. Small strokes, followed by a sound I could not identify. The strokes became harder and the noise louder. A wet, squelching sound.
What is that?
My head spun with confusion and panic as I strained to locate my attacker. I saw a movement from the corner of my eye. I turned but couldn’t focus. It was too dark, and I was in shock.
Warm liquid ran down my back, arms, and legs. Blood. My blood, but there was no pain, still no pain.
In a moment of clarity, I knew I had to move. To get away before my attacker struck again.
Today, I’m celebrating what I consider the TOP TEN powerful posts on my MYSTICAL MUSINGS blog in 2016. I met and interviewed some fascinating people this year, who graciously allowed me to ask all kinds of questions about their passions and expertise, and I came away from the experiences a more educated, enlightened and learned person. Plus, I had a blast! In other posts, I connected and explored memories and passions of my own. As an author, a writer, a storyteller and a blogger, It’s always an adventure sharing what I’ve learned and discovered with readers, and hearing your comments and feedback. It’s a journey that I want to be on, and I look forward to another great year. Thanks so much for joining me!
What powerful posts have you written, or read this year?
Here’s looking at you! Happy holidays, and Happy New Year!
If you’ve read my posts before, you know I cover a wide range of topics, from tattoo artists to paranormal activity. Here’s a few of my favorites from this year:
A huge draw for the event is not only the guest speakers, but the guided ghost walks through town.
I also invite you to join me, where I’ll be signing books for the very first time and hanging with STP, all of their guests, and lots of other cool vendors!
The Psychic Vincent Sisters, featured speakers for the event, were recently featured on an episode of the show, Six Degrees of Murder, on the cable channel Investigation Discovery. The Vincent Sisters will be discussing their work and conducting a gallery reading.
Also speaking at the event is Patty Wilson, who has researched and written about the paranormal and the history of Pennsylvania for over twenty years. She is affectionately known throughout the Keystone State as The Ghost Lady of Pennsylvania.
Drake Bowan, a paranormal investigator with 14+ years of experience, will also speak at the event.
Over the last decade, I’ve developed a deep, soulful connection with silver, versus gold. As a younger woman, I think I identified with gold, and as life’s experiences shaped me, I think I grew into more of a ‘silver’ personality. Translation? Inherently, I identify silver with uniqueness and strength, found myself drawn to it for these reasons, and indeed, my research into this precious metal validated my beliefs.
Ancient cultures began mining silver over 5,000 years ago. Perhaps the single most significant event in the history of silver was the discovery of the New World in 1492. Since then, the role of silver has exploded the world over. Widely used as currency in biblical times, its current uses and applications include utensils, chemistry, photography, medicine, water purification, air conditioning, dentistry, and jewelry.
Amazingly versatile, too, I enjoy the mystical and symbolic connection that exists with silver. Per information at wikia.com, it is associated with feminine energy, along with the goddess Artemis, the virgin goddess of the Hunt and the moon. Symbolizing feminine intuition and inner knowledge, it’s also associated with spirituality. And because its energy flows with the tides, and thus water, it’s associated with both adaptability and cleansing.
Indeed. I keep silver close to me most days, in the form of various silver spoon rings, which began as an accidental, and then a not so accidental, collection. Not only is each unique, whimsical and beautiful, showcasing craftsmanship and longevity, they tell a story, and hold fond memories of who I was with, where we were, and the fun we had, usually at annual craft festivals.
As a writer, and a storyteller, certainly, that part of it appeals to me. Too, as a writer, I strive to add depth to my characters. And indeed, what type of jewelry they wear—or don’t wear—is one way to deepen that connection, for myself, and for the reader. It’s something very personal for me, and I imagine, for my characters.
As well, the history of the spoon ring swept me, a writer of romance, away. According to information at justspoonin.com, “Spoon rings date back as far as the 1600s in England and were originally thought to represent love, responsibility and commitment. As the story goes, servants who had fallen in love and wanted to propose marriage would steal silver spoons from their masters’ homes and have them crafted into rings. They were too poor to afford any sort of “real” engagement ring, so this was their best alternative to offering a beautiful and valuable ring to the woman they wanted to make their wife.”
As many of the spoons were engraved with the family’s crest, identifying thieves wasn’t too difficult, and lots of arrests were made from the 17th to the 19th century. Sigh. What romantic, grand gestures!
A storyteller at heart, my innate curiosity runs deep. As an individual passionate about self-expression, all forms of art and creativity, tattoos have fascinated me for years. And as a writer of romance with an inquisitive mind who adores bestowing said indelible designs upon her characters, I set out to explore how the two intertwined.
The history of storytelling and tattooing are both as old as time. Across cultures and countries, races and religions, both send messages, and even unite us as human beings.
Storytelling, I believe, is an ingrained part of our make up as human beings. We have always had a soul deep desire to explain, understand, teach, learn, calm, empower, commemorate and connect. Too, just as storytelling was, and is an art, so was, and is listening. Stories were told, and retold, and as man explored the globe, those same stories were shared, changed, stretched and expanded, and told again. Messages of wisdom, knowledge, values and beliefs from our collective ancestors are reflected in the myths, legends, fairy tales and other lore—fact and fiction—handed down from one generation to the next, and keep us connected to one another, as well as the past, present and future.
Today, every aspect of our lives it seems, is touched by myriad stories in both the traditional sense, in that we share stories verbally, face to face, and in the modern sense, via movies, books, magazines, music, television, social media and the Internet.
I believe just as storytelling satisfies basic human needs and desires, so does tattooing. For thousands of years, men and women have tattooed their bodies for many reasons, including self-expression and as part of their culture’s rituals. Regardless of the reason, they all have one common denominator: they give us the ability to communicate powerful messages to one another, without the need for words.
In an article at Smithsonian.com, author Cate Lineberry describes tattoos: “These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment.”
Indeed! From ancient cave etchings to modern sculpture, history, art and pop culture pay homage to said ‘permanent designs’. And in recent years, the popularity and diversity of body art, which includes tattooing, piercing and painting, has exploded and been wholeheartedly embraced as mainstream, via magazines, social media, conventions, competitions and television shows such as Miami Ink.
Per an article at Huffington Post, it’s estimated that one third of America’s young adults, aged 18-25, have at least one tattoo, per a report done by the Pew Research Center. As such, the tattoo industry is one of the fastest growing retail business in America.
To get a close up, personal view of this ‘tattoo phenomenon’ at one such business and the artist behind it, I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Boney “Joe” Clark, seasoned tattoo artist and owner of Tattoos by Boney Joe in Zelienople, PA. In the business for over thirty years, he generously shared his views on the industry, the art form and some storytelling of his own.
When we met, Joe explained he’d recently returned from a motorcycle trip. “I’m not a conventional traveler,” he said about the trip. “I like to experience it with all of my senses. Smell the air, taste the rain, see and touch the landscape.”
Interestingly, I believe it’s these very things a true artist seeks to capture in his work. And indeed, Joe’s artistry extends to his expertise as a master body piercer, as well as his flair for metal design work.
As a teenager, Joe became interested in tattooing after being at a fair and seeing a guy tattooing people in the back of his van. He’d always loved to draw, and instantly, he thought, “I can do better.” Starting his business on a wing and a prayer, he’s faced his share of trials, including a town that was, at first, slow to embrace a tattoo studio. But in true survivor fashion, he overcame—and not just the challenges of being a business owner. Joe is intensely proud of the fact he’s been drug free since 1988, and the tattoo on his left forearm is a testament to that.
He explained the basic mechanics of getting a tattoo to me, the tools that are used, and the artistry involved. Yes, they use what’s called a stencil of the design that’s transferred to the skin of the person getting the tattoo. But that will only take the artist so far. He or she has to also be able to draw freehand for certain designs, like a face, for example. The artist isn’t really ‘drawing’ the face, at least not at first. They use a ‘map’ to build the face, and their talent enables them to complete it. Every design is unique, and the time and talents needed to complete them depend on their complexity.
For any tattoo, Joe wants details and specifics, so the person receiving it gets exactly what they want. And the more complicated, the more details. He used the example of a butterfly. “What kind?” he posed. “A Monarch? A Malachite? A Pearly Eye? Should the wings be open or closed? Should it tilt to the right or left?” It’s details like these that are necessary to ensure everyone’s on the same page, before any work begins.
The tattoos on Joe’s hands are one example of the fun he’s had with ‘ink’ over the years. He explained that during the Veggie Tale craze in the 90s, two of his artists had a tattoo ‘war’, each trying to ‘out design’ the other. The result? On his right hand, a kind of crazed carrot wields a chain saw, and a deranged eggplant eyes the world cockily on his left. Recently, however, the carrot took on additional meaning to Joe, when he beat kidney cancer two years ago. Since then, he’s once again emerged as a survivor, and as such, added a commemorative ribbon to the design—which the carrot’s chainsaw is now ‘slashing’ through. Joe’s message is clear: “I kicked cancer’s ass.”
In thirty years’ time, Joe has designed thousands of tattoos, and tattooed three to four generations of people, even entire families. What’s his favorite thing to tattoo? “I’ll tattoo anything and love it, if it’s something that person is certain about, and it has deep meaning to them,” he said. “I don’t care if it means anything to anyone else. People may even look at it and have no idea what it is. But as long as the person who got it is happy, that’s what counts.” He told me about the woman who, after receiving her tattoo, was so moved she began to cry. “It was deeply satisfying,” he said.
I felt privileged to hear what was perhaps his favorite story, about an 82-year old woman who came to his shop with her daughter and granddaughter–all to get tattoos. When Joe asked her why she was getting it, he recalled what she said in detail. “She turned to me, and said, ‘You know kid, I was married to the meanest son of a bitch for fifty three years and I just buried him two months ago. I’m having the time of my life.’ ” And after the trio was done? This 82-year ‘young’ woman and company were headed to see male strippers. Bada bing. “She was sharp as a tack,” Joe said with a smile.
There’s no doubt Joe has had some ‘colorful’ experiences as a tattoo artist. But to him, it’s about a lot more than just the end result. He sincerely cares about the people who walk through his door, and their long-term satisfaction. At times, he’s even advised people not to get a tattoo.
Case in point—Joe told me the story about an eighteen-year-old man who came to the shop, bent on getting a tattoo that would pay homage to Michael Jordan. “When I asked him why, he listed Jordan’s many accomplishments,” Joe said. “I told him, fine. If you really want it, come back tomorrow and you’ll be my first appointment of the day. But first I want you to think about something. Remember how great everyone thought O.J. Simpson used to be? Things happen. Do you really want a tattoo like that for the rest of your life? It might not be so cool five years from now. Maybe you’re better off just wearing a Jordan ball cap.”
With that, Joe sent him on his way. Later that same evening, the man called him, and told him he’d gone to another shop where the artist had been eager to give him the tattoo. But the man decided not to get it. Instead, he thought about how Joe had gone out of his way to tell him all that he did, and it really made him stop and think. This guy cared.
And so he does. In 2001, Joe had the unique opportunity to share his expert knowledge of body piercing with the local medical community. After piercing the friend of a teaching nurse from a college in Pittsburgh, she was so impressed with Joe’s studio and his knowledge she suggested they present it directly to the medical community in the form of a seminar on piercing removal and care—a topic, at that time, about which there was little knowledge. In addition, Joe is extremely proud the information was also published in a textbook used by nursing students.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about tattoo shops and artists is they’re like McDonald’s, meaning, they’re all the same. They’re not,” Joe said definitively. “That idea leads people to start price shopping, and you just can’t, nor should you do that for something you’re going to have on your body for the rest of your life. Another misconception is that the tattoo industry is regulated. It isn’t, by and large, in Pennsylvania. That makes choosing a tattoo artist, based on their experience and standards even more critical.” That’s something Joe swears by—he holds himself and his artists to the highest standards in all aspects of the business.
Along with his passion for the business, Joe understands what makes a great tattoo artist: skill, passion and personality.
One of Joe’s artists, ‘Tez’, a.k.a Emery Joseph Kertesz IV and Gentlemen Tattooist, was at the
studio to contribute to our conversation, and offered the following insight: “If you take away any one of those three qualities, you have a good artist, and if you take away two, you have only an artist.”
So, why do people get tattoos? “In my experience,” Joe said, “people want to commemorate someone, or an event in their lives, or something they’re passionate about, like hunting. They also do it just because they think it’s cool. And some get a tattoo because it’s a fad.” Most popular lately? “Dandelions, and as their fluff is blowing away, it’s turning into birds. Also semi-colons, and anything with script or words,” he said. (Click here to read more about Project Semicolon)
The word tattoo is thought to be derived from both the Polynesian word “ta”, meaning “to strike”, and the Tahitian “tatau”, meaning “to mark.” Without a doubt, ‘Boney’ Joe Clark has indeed made his mark, indelibly, as an artist, a business owner and a supporter of the community.
So, what’ve I discovered from my sojourn into the world of tattoos, and how they intertwine with storytelling? I believe that not only is each tattoo a story unto itself, so is each client, and each artist. As each ‘tattoo’ story unfolds, both the client and the artist are telling that story—the client, with his choice of design, his experiences and motivations, and the artist, with his execution of that design, his talent, and his passion.
I’m also honored to have heard, and to relate the stories Joe shared with me—and to add my own ‘threads’ to their existing fabric. After all, I am a storyteller. It’s also my sincere hope that my message is clear: I’ve listened, and I’ve spoken. I’ve learned, and been entertained. I’ve understood, and I’ve connected.
I hope you do too.
PLEASE SHARE: What’s the story behind your tattoo? What inspired you to get it?