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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Happiness the old fashioned way

Sometimes when I turn on the news and listen to what the people around me did to one another , I get discouraged. Shooting one another, killing, maiming, hit and runs and all the rest.  Then I think back to the things I have learned in life and realize the problems are pretty much the same.  Everyone is looking for happiness and since it is  equated to money, a host of problems arise.

Epicurus knew, way back in 341 BC , money didn't bring happiness.  Over the years he wrote 300 books, all of which have been lost over the centuries, yet his ideas still live today.   He thought there were three major parts to happiness. 1. Friends 2. Freedom 3. An analyzed life.

For my taste he took the friendship thing too far.  He liked communal living because there were always people around. He believed only wolves and bears ate alone and people should always eat with someone else.  It might be my answer to dieting.  If I waited for someone to share every meal with, I wouldn't eat much.  But let's look at the bigger picture.  When you have lots of friends, your life is entwined with them.
Groups of people together are festive by nature.  It is a much happier life with friends around.  Only not around all the time, in my opinion.

Next he thought freedom was important.  He didn't mean freedom like many of you are thinking.  He meant no boss to ruin your life. He actually was speaking of being self-sufficient.  Knowing how to take care of yourself and your family.  This is not a high priority in our times.  I was speaking one night about this and a lady came up to me later.  She said Walmart would always have food so she thought I was being negative and old  fashioned.  Needless to say, I couldn't think of anything to say to her.  I hope my mouth didn't gape open too far.

Then there is the analyzed life. Epicurus believed one needed to have enough time alone to examine their life. Sitting on a river bank or walking in the woods with no music, no people and no commercials,only quiet.To spend time reflecting and perhaps letting ideas pop into your head. They will never come with your ipad always at hand, your computer in front of you or a video game stealing your attention.

Way back before the birth of Christ, Epicurus believed commercialism and advertising caused most of our problems with happiness.  He felt it was why getting away alone  once in awhile was so important.
Before I let go of this subject, I want to point something out that Epicurus said.  He said we bought things to find happiness, but happiness is not included with any purchase.  He said it was mostly advertising.
Someone buys a cologne called Love.  They don't necessary want the cologne, they want the love.
Take "Bacardi and friends", do you want the Bacardi or the friends?  Whiskey most usually shows a guy sitting alone reflecting while he sips a $200 bottle of single malt whiskey.  Does he want the whiskey or the reflection?
Only wanted to give you a little something to think about on these cold winter mornings as you drink your Folgers coffee. Did you buy it because the kid came all the way from East Africa to see his family for Christmas or because you like the taste?  Hum.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Tiny View of Socrates

Socrates would have been lost in our world and most likely cast aside as a nut job.  He was dirty, barefoot, and ugly.  It was his habit to walk around the streets of the Athens marketplace and ask the people he met a series of questions aimed at examining their lives.  

Most people do not take kindly to someone, anyone, especially a filthy, ugly, and  unkempt man, who interrupts their day to search their thinking. It was the life of Socrates.

To make matters worse,  Socrates didn't  write anything down.  All we know about his life and times we read from his students, the most famous being Plato.  Socrates wanted to know what and why people were what they were.  Did their belief follow the rules of common sense.  In other words if a married man was happy did it mean all married men were happy.  Common sense says no.  So if Socrates could find an exception to a statement he considered it false. He would consider finding more exceptions to a statement until it was found to be completely false.

I would imagine it was annoying at best.  Socrates was trying to get everyone he met to think outside the box, to be a self confident thinker and not to follow the crowd.  People were likened to sheep who always followed the leader and were horribly afraid to get out of the herd.  People are especially prone to follow those they deem successful or rich.  He found out , however, the people who were famous or rich, more likely than not did not understand or know why they had become rich or successful. Most thought they were just lucky.   

Socrates thought anyone and everyone should think.  Thinking should not be left to the folks with higher educational degrees.  It does not necessary make them  better thinkers- a horrible misconception.

If I make a statement, and say Bill Clinton, makes a conflicting statement, the most famous will be taken as correct.  Although, Bill might not know anything about the subject.  Human nature, I guess.  Education and fame trumps  relative unknown author and speaker.  Hum. Socrates was not a fan of democracy for this reason. Majority rules and focus groups that guides us today would have unnerved him.  He was a great fan of logical and reasonable thought.  Those two things are not necessarily present in our modern day decisions.

Socrates is best known for saying "I know that I know nothing."  The  Oracle of Delphi said he was the wisest man alive at the time.

The "I know that I know nothing." quote follows a basic philosophy many of we life time learners.Yet we put it another way.  "The more I know, the more I realize I don't know."  Those of us who read and study to write books and articles realize what we know is the tip of the iceberg.

Socrates was eventually tried and put to death for corrupting the youth of Athens and ignoring the gods .
He was forced to drink hemlock and died, what I am sure was a nasty death.

What he taught us rings true today.  An un-examined life is a wasted one.   It is worth it to know what you really believe and to not follow the crowd.   It will open a new chapter in you life.  Colors will appear brighter and the journey more meaningful and joy full.   I don't think hemlock is as readily available as it was back then, so grab a book you have always wanted to read but were afraid people would make fun of.

Someone once asked me what I was reading.  My daughter was there and said " Mom reads weird books."
I thought it a great compliment.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Typical Day as a Writer

I love to write.  I love when a character  takes over my mind.  I sit for hours with my fingers tapping out the words he says through me. I know if he would order scotch or beer at the local pub, his favorite meal and his taste in women. It's a great life.  It is however, a sedentary job.

It is easy to get up at seven, get a cup of coffee, and write non stop until noon.  When I try to stand, my legs are stiff, I am still in my jammies, and I have hairy teeth.  So, I turned over a new leaf.   After my morning writing session, I head for the gym.  I walk forty minutes and left weights.  It accomplished several things.  My mind is sharper, I get my Food Channel fix, while I am on the treadmill, and I am forced to shower and get dressed to go out in public.

On my way to the gym, I find myself smiling.  Actually, grinning at the things I pass.  About a mile down my lane I am forced to stop for a flock of guinea fowl who know the road has the best gravel.  They like the hubcaps on my car and attack them regularly.  Once I get through them, I meet my neighbor's chickens.  They run when the see me coming.  Problem is, they run in every direction.  If I want eggs for breakfast, I must stop and let them settle so I can go on.   All of this and I am not yet on a main road.

Everyday I go two miles out in the country and pick up a neighbor whose car and son are away at college.
On my way, I stop for a coon hound who lays right smack in the center of the road.  I don't care what time of day or how hot or cold the pavement, the dog is there.  On my left a little further down the  cows are calving.  I count the progress every day.  This week they have three new ones.
It is pretty calm to the gym and then I face the same obstacles on my way home.

Today, when I got here, I became the proud caretaker of twin lambs.  They are so cute and their pictures are below.  These happen to be girls I named Curry and Cumin.  If they are boys I name them lamb chop.It is their destiny.

Once we are done lambing, we will start calving.  This is all done because we don't want to eat grocery store meat.  Well, I had better get back to the great American novel. It isn't going to write itself.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dumb Criminals

 Dumb Criminals
I must share this.  It is so funny, so sad and so dumb.  I am sure you have all heard of the FBI virus.  If not, here is a quick explanation.
A virus takes over your computer.  It says," the FBI has found pornography on this computer.  You must call within three business days and pay $200 to have this warning removed. If not, you will be  visited by the FBI and charges will be filed."

Well, a guy from one of the small towns around here actually had  porn on his computer when he also got the virus.  So he called the FBI and turned himself in thinking he would get a break.

They found disgusting things on his computer.  He was charged and is now serving 15 to 30 years in prison.   

It might now be a tried and true way to catch criminals, but in this case it worked.

Would be great if they could target people they knew were a menace and catch a few more.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Starry Starry Night

Starry Starry Night

Last night I stepped out onto the back porch to get a couple of sticks of firewood.  It was cold, clear, crisp and still.   I do not live in a quiet world.  This farm is 100 acres.  It is big to me, but not big in the scheme of things.  It is never quiet here.  There is always a dog barking in the distance, a cow bellowing a forlorn cry in a field or a night creature stalking prey.

Dressed only in my PJ's and slippers, I leaned against the railing and  looked up at the milky way.  I had a new feeling.  It wasn't that I was looking up at the stars, but I was standing on the edge of the world from my own star, looking at my neighbors.

Several thoughts came to me in the quiet. " Be still and know that I am God." ,"if it isn't right, kind, or necessary, don't say it."," if you are not listening, you are not learning.", and "quiet is wisdom."

The sheer bitter cold forced me back in the house.  It was only fourteen degrees when I was standing there.  For the first time since I was a kid, I didn't feel the cold because of the excitement I felt while standing in the stars and listening for a sound- any sound in the night.

I thought about putting on my coat and going back out yet I knew this was a once in a lifetime moment.  A moment when I was one with the earth and the sky.  I felt it was a moment I could not duplicate or extend.   Today I am calmer and will try to make the best of every moment, knowing there will never be another moment like this one.  There will not be another day like today.  Enjoy.  It is why we are here. Take time to  celebrate the smallest moment that makes you smile.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Food and Eating

I love bread.  Oh, I could name hundreds of things I love, but bread would be first on the list, next would be pasta.  This presents a problem for me.  

Trying to eat healthy everyday is a chore in its own right without day dreaming about hot steamy bread with real butter and home made jam.  If I add tomato basil pasta with creamy white sauce, it gets even worse.  I could just skip eating this stuff and rub it straight on my waist line.  It would save time, cause it will end up there anyway. Then there is the french vanilla creme I put in my coffee every morning.  Hum.  Maybe I don't eat that healthy after all.

Sitting back and watching my friends eat candy and potato chips gives me a momentary feeling of superiority. I can pass up those things and sit straight in my chair and pretend I am a pillar of virtue .
When I get home, I run straight to the bread drawer, pull out the toaster, make two slices, slather them with butter and strawberry jam and I am happy.

What's the point of all of this?  I know you're asking that question about now.  Well, it is a bread recipe that makes bread less of a guilt trip.

In my quest to eat healthier, I read more labels.   Did you know the average 'healthy' bread has between 36 and 54 ingredients, including corn syrup and 11 or 12 things I can't pronounce and 4 I can't begin to sound out.
So, here goes.

Get yourself some non GMO flour, not bleached.  You can even get it at Walmart.  There is Wheat Montana and other places have Red Star.  There are lots out there.

Take 6 1/2 cups of flour
3 cups of lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast
1  1/2 tablespoons of course salt.
That's it.  Simple,yes?
Okay, put the flour in a bowl (big bowl)
on top put the yeast and salt
on top put the water.
stir.  once it is stirred, put some plastic wrap over it and sit it in a warm spot for at least 2 hours, but it can sit 5 or more hours.
preheat your oven to 450 degrees
put some flour on your hands and break the dough into 3 balls.  Put it on parchment paper on a cookie sheet (2 cookie sheets)
Let it set 10 minutes.
score it.
Put it on the next to the top shelf.  Put a pan of water below it, on the next shelf, ( about 3 cups)
bake for 1/2 hour.   
Done.  Let it set and eat, eat , eat.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


There was a time when I didn't get the concept that motivation comes after the fact.
In other words, you must force yourself to do a chore the first time and then the, feeling of success you get gives you the motivation to do it again.

I proved it to myself again this morning.  Being obsessed with getting my book Tattered Wings published, I find myself sitting hour after hour.  I read it.  I reread it.  I make changes.  Then I send out query letters and pages to prospective agents. When I look up at the clock it is noon.  My pj's are still on and I have downed a pot of coffee.

The result of this daily behavior is stress and sore muscles.  This morning I changed my routine.  I got up, did the minimum chores I could ( no easy task on a 100 acre farm) and headed to the gym. Twenty minutes on the treadmill, ten minutes on the StairMaster and a variety of arm weights, helped melt the tension away.

Now, I find myself looking forward to going to the gym tomorrow.  When I sit five hours working on my novel,  I can smile. I did accomplish something for my health today.  Tomorrow I will work on leg machines and increase my times on the tread mill and Stair Master( I didn't want to throw my body into shock on the first day).

Do something today for yourself.  Sure, I am writing my book for me as much as anything (actually it is to get rid of those voices in my head).  But, I am not doing it as the expense of my health.
Next I am going to tackle my ice cream obsession.

Monday, January 7, 2013



.  This morning I want to talk about stray animals.  When we moved to the farm eight years ago, I had a dog, Diggitty.  Diggitty is a miniature dauchhund. My farm partner had a min pin.  I had the world's greatest black lab named Griffin and a boxer with no brain, Roady.

There are nine dogs at the farm now.  That's right, count 'em NINE.
I sit back in amazement at the callousness of people where animals are concerned.  I know it makes me a cynic when dealing with people in general.

In the first two years we lost the min pin, Garbo, and the lab  We were down to a manageable two.
One of our neighbors told us about a grocery store, three miles from no where, selling unusual fare.  We decided to check it out.  A couple of miles from home, on a major county road, we saw a Basset hound lying in the road..  My friend, Blenna, told me to stop so we could help it if it was alive or move it off of the road if it was dead.  So, I stopped.

In reality it was an act.  As soon as the suburban stopped and the door opened, that Basset hopped up, ran to the door and jumped in.  Gingerly she climbed over the back seat and lay panting in the cargo area.
Behind her, out of the woods by the side of the road, came two more small dogs.  One was a male rat terrier and the ugliest puppy you have ever seen.  I swear you would have to hang pork chops from the puppies ears to get other dogs to play with it.  They followed suit.

Don't tell me dogs are not smart.  This was a plan.  Now, I had three dogs in the back of the truck and they were hunkered in for a ride. I suggested we put them out.

"If they are still here when we get back, we can take them somewhere." I thought it was a great idea.
"Oh no.  If they are smashed when we come back I wouldn't be able to live with myself."  was her answer.

As I got back into the truck, I looked over the seat.  A pure bred basset, who had only recently had puppies, a standard rat terrier, a real stud, and the world's homeliest puppy.  And then there were five. Zoi, Jack and Odie Bolt were now to be permanent residents of Bowen Creek Farm.

Several months later, in the dead of winter, I went out to the shop to build a fire.  There was movement to my left, by the wood pile.  I went on about my business.  I finished up on my chores and headed to the house when I saw it again. It was a big ball of fur.  Picking it up I realized it was a puppy.  This was a clean, fat, happy puppy.  He couldn't be over six weeks old.  It was supposed to be the coldest night of the year, so far..  Unzipping my coat I put the little guy inside and zipped it back.  He ended up to be a Basenji.  We named him Woody.

Not long after we got Woody, we received a phone call.  Seems our young neighbors were divorcing.  They moved out of the house and she didn't take the dog. "Could you go check on him?  I left food in a container and he has water."

Blenna went.

Blenna went every day for two months.  The lady had left food alright, but she left it in a covered garbage can with a tight lid and the little guy was scared, cold, and starving.  He would have nothing to do with us.   He waited until the car was out of the driveway and then scarfed up the food and hid again.  After two months, it was easy to tell he was going to end up coyote bait. We called the Department of Conservation, borrowed a live trap, added a cheeseburger.  And then there were seven.
Welcome, Gamble.

We had two neighbors who fought over whose dog should be fixed.  Mary had a golden retriever and Dee a Great Pyrenees.   Mary's vet told her her male would be a better pet if she didn't neuter him. Seems to be a typical male stance.  Dee had no intention of spaying her Pyrenees.  The result was a litter of Golden Pyrenees puppies every year. They ended up in the Walmart parking lot. given away to people who didn't know how to handle them.

When I saw Bo walking up the street, I smiled. This was one puppy I would not keep.  I knew exactly where he came from, and he was going back.  Problem was, they both swore, there were no puppies this year.  It did not belong to them.  We put him in the back yard.  He was going to Tulsa to live with my daughter.  Her dog tried to kill him so he is our resident watch dog.  Nothing moves around here Bo doesn't see, hear, or smell.  He is only ninety-six pounds.

Two black labs showed up a month or so ago and I called county animal control.  They came and got them. Enough is enough.  But, I didn't tell you about our latest, Chichi Rita.

I was out feeding late, after dark, and I saw a fox.  "Hey Blenna, do you think fox eat cat food?"
She didn't think so.  It was a couple of days before Halloween.  We went out to take another look but the fox was gone.  The next night the fox was there again.  A repeat of the night before.  The next day, sitting on the front porch was a little red Chihuahua., my fox.  Now this could not be an accident.  The next morning we went out looking for an owner only to find there were several of these dogs dumped a mile or so away.  One of our neighbors picked this one up and dropped it off near our farm knowing it would survive.  So then there were nine.


Sunday, January 6, 2013



Yesterday I spent my day with about 65 talented people.
Collectively they have written thousands of books, stories, blogs, and thoughts read by millions of people.
JANO2013 is a project geared at motivating writers to put 50,000 words on paper before February 1.
When I think about it, it seems overwhelming, yet there are many people across this area who are dedicated to get the job done.
I, personally, started a new Romance novel with the hopes of attaining the goal.
ORA, Ozark Romance Writers, and Sleuth's Ink Mystery Writers co hosted the event.  They brought together aspiring and veteran writers from across the area.  I met several authors  from the greater Kansas City area, Thornhill, Joplin, and Plato, Niangua, Marshfield, Ozark, and Nixa and beyond.

I learned so much.  I listened to other writers read their offerings out loud and open themselves up to the critique of their peers. I took a deep breath and read my offering.  The feedback from everyone was invaluable.  It was my first time to attend a Mega Critique.  I am hooked.

Every genre was represented  from Romance, Paranormal, Alternative Lifestyle, Christian
Inspirational, YA, Middle grade and children as well as non fiction and Historical fiction and erotica.
I wonder if the public realizes how much talent they have under their noses.

Writing is an unusual profession.  I don't get up, get dressed, and head out on the road to my office.
Sometimes I spend the entire day writing to realize my characters have taken over my life .  I look up to realize it is three p.m.  I am still in my PJ's , have had only coffee and no shower.

Events like the one yesterday remind me I am a member of an elite group of people driven by the voices  we have conjured up in our minds.  We hear voices, create alternate egos, plot crimes, kill people, and put unlikely folks together for unforgettable adventures and love stories that make your heart flutter.

Thanks to all of you.
Again I am inspired to be able to count myself - one of  the group.