Archive for June, 2008

The Good Bye Sign

Posted on June 25, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I spent a gorgeous New England Saturday in in the basement of a suburban hotel for a motivational/communications seminar. My husband’s company had offered it free to family members of employees who had taken the course already.

DH had told me highlights of his three days, so I had wondered what we would do in our single day version. As I had expected, we did The Good Bye Sign exercise. What I hadn’t expected was my reaction.

The purpose of the GBS is to show how listening affects a speaker. We each had to write “Good Bye” on a piece of paper to hold in our lap. Then we faced a partner. The seminar leader told one of us expound for two minutes on a beloved topic. The listener, once his or her mind wandered — whether it was to decide how to respond or to wonder what’s for lunch — was expected to hold up the Good Bye sign in front of her own face.

I was supposed to talk first. But I couldn’t bring myself to expound about any of my favorite subjects, partly because I already knew the point of the exercise and didn’t feel up to any feeling resembling rejection. So I said, “I’m a former journalist and I just can’t monologue. I want to know more about you.” So, for two minutes, I interviewed her.

With all the questions I asked, I probably had her talking more than I did. I asked her about her college sweatshirt, her hometown and then her sports teams. Soon, I faced the Good Bye Sign.

I scrambled to recover to something she might enjoy more. As I lost the energy for the patter of the questions, she raised the sign at least twice more. Then, it was time to switch jobs.

Whether it was my training as a journalist or my upbringing as a polite southern girl, I could not put that GBS in front of my face. No matter what. She even launched into a topic that makes my eyes glaze over.

I’ve had that happen as a reporter, too, when an interview subject bores me. Or, worse, when the story is about a topic that I normally find boring. But my job has been to steer the interview back on topic, to be interested enough in writing the story to ask the questions to tell that story and to keep the subject talking.

So, I fell back onto training. Whether it was from j-school classes or “Mother’s kitchen table,” I could not put that good-bye sign in front of my face.

After the seminar leader called “time’s up,” I apologized to my partner for not giving her the full effect of the exercise. Seeing that good bye sign go up — for whatever the reason — is jarring. I think, on some level, I simply did not want to do it to her.

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Good Kitty Sam – Update

Posted on June 25, 2008. Filed under: cats, Uncategorized |

Sam the cat lying on his back on the couch

Photo by Rhonda Lane

Take Two was not going well. Still determined to be a “good kitty,” Sam refused to use the nice clean box. He had waited overnight then into the next evening. He had given up on going upstairs and was hiding in the basement when DH took action.

Rod sprinkled a little bit of the regular kitty litter into another corner of the box. Then, we left Sammy alone in the basement.

Later on, I went downstairs to check to find that Sam, like Santa, must have solitude to deliver. Only, I don’t think Sam was certain that he had done the right thing. He remained in hiding under some shipping boxes.

He would only come out when I rattled the treat bag.

I think he was afraid he’d been bad.

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Good Kitty Sam

Posted on June 19, 2008. Filed under: cats, Uncategorized | Tags: |

Sam is comfy on his cat tree

Photo by Rhonda Lane

Sammy’s a good boy – maybe a little too good.

His vet told us we needed to collect a urine sample. The doc told us to isolate him so that only he could use a particular litter box. Then, our vet gave us a little cup with special litter to toss in so Sam could scratch. And, the doc added, cats may only urinate once in 24 hours.

DH and I accepted the challenge. We know the various ways that vets get urine on demand – and we’d prefer that gentle Sam not have to endure any of those. Sam’s big, almost 15 lbs, but sweet-natured.

So, we put him and his special box in the basement. There’s about half a cup of litter in a box the size of two milk crates. Then, we let him spend the night alone. The next morning, we saw that the box was untouched.

No worries. The vet had said 24 hours.

I closed the bathroom door so he couldn’t get to the other litter box and then let him upstairs. No pouting from Sam, he followed me with bright eyes and a vertical waving tail. I led him back downstairs to show him the box we wanted him to use.

Just in case, he’d missed the point. I scratched in the scant litter, first with my fingers and then with the regular litter scoop so they could pick up the “Do This Here” scent. Then, I put him in the box, which is how people show new kittens where to go. But he stepped back out, ready to follow me elsewhere.

He seemed so comfy and happy that I wondered if he’d found an alternate spot. I walked through the basement to search for smelly places. He trailed happily at my heels.

That began a day-long dance of upstairs/downstairs, opening and shutting doors, all depending upon Sam’s location. Soon, that day ended with Sam downstairs alone again with his clean special litter box.

But, on the second morning, Sam came back upstairs to make a beeline down the hall toward the bathroom only to find, again, a closed door. He plopped his tush in front of it and mewed. He may be a big guy, but he’s got a little monkey chitter.

So, I led him back to the basement. As I had expected, his box was still pristine. We had another day of upstairs/downstairs.I resigned myself to the idea that, if he had an accident, I would collect it wherever it might be. No matter what. Because Sammy had retreated to his alone zone — under the bed.

Finally, DH came home during one of Sammy’s upstairs sojourns. I was in the living room when Rod said, “Sammy’s scratching at the bathroom door.”

“Yeah,” I said, all the while feeling like a torturer plagued by conscience, “he’s been doing that.”

Despite Sam’s whimpering, we stood firm because we know that he Really Won’t Like what might be ahead. But Sam didn’t know any of that. All he knew is, I gotta GO.

A little while later, I spotted Sammy curled up on the kitty tree, no longer under the bed or whimpering in front of the bathroom door. I thought nothing of it because he’d been up there earlier in the day. But then, I walked down the hall to see the bathroom door cracked open. The litter box had been fully utilized. He’d managed to push the bathroom door open and help himself at the “good” box.

No wonder he looked so comfy.

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Chinese Panda Nursery Damaged in Quake

Posted on June 17, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Wolong staff mourns Mao Mao

(AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

If you’ve watched many Animal Planet or PBS nature shows, you’re probably familiar with the Wolong Giant Panda Sanctuary, where the Chinese raise bouncing baby pandas. They’ve developed a knack for breeding the rare creatures, who are notoriously reserved but utterly-charming-to-humans.

Recently, Wolong staffers have been making do as best they can after last month’s major earthquake. After shocks, a loss of power and rockslides have been the source of continued damage. The road into the remote facility only recently became passable. (See updates from the National Zoo.) The staff sleeps in unheated, chilly tents. Funds trickle in from worried panda lovers, especially via Pandas International, a Littleton, CO,-based charity that helps zoos with pandas and panda reserves.

But, despite the disaster-provoked privations, what has the Wolong staff rattled the most is the single known casualty of the quake: a 9-year-old female panda named Mao Mao, who was recently found underneath the rubble from her enclosure. The AP photo shows the staff mourning her and describes their loss in this story.

The program at Wolong is hands-on and hearts-engaged.

The future of the pandas remains more uncertain than ever. Besides the threat from the unstable mountains, what has staff worried deeply is that one is still missing. According to a recent Washington Post article, they hope he ran off into the surrounding countryside — but that gives little comfort.

According to Post correspondent Jill Drew’s article, the quake could have yet-untold impact upon the China’s tiny wild panda population, already feared to be locked onto a slow boat to extinction before the quake.

“With its low birthrate and small numbers — fewer than 2,000 pandas are thought to live in the wild and only about 230 live in captivity — the species’ hold on survival is tenuous. The earthquake hit at the height of breeding season, and its path cut through the prime swath of wild panda habitat.”

Bottom line: no one knows how many of those pandas that live out in those rocky wooded hills are okay, let alone might still be alive. And that includes Wolong’s missing panda.

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Confessions of an Occasional Blogger

Posted on June 12, 2008. Filed under: blogs, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , |

I seem to be falling behind with this blogging thing. My last entry was three weeks ago. Uh oh.

However, the novel I’m writing is making excellent progress. I have no idea how authors, especially those with the book-a-year contract, juggle both. The longer I do this, the more impressed I am with that end product, a book that’s a satisfying read.

I have a feeling that I overthink my blog topics. I have about seven unfinished drafts that I couldn’t get off the ground, let alone post in a timely fashion, so they’re outdated now. A prime example is a post about my pre-Belmont thoughts on Big Brown.

Also, for some topics, I have another venue in mind. I don’t want to debut them here under my basically, intentionally anonymous personal blog. So I save them. I hope they don’t end up like the magazines on my coffee table, the ones I insist I intend to read but secretly fear that I’m just hoarding.

Plus, part of me likes the idea that I have a relatively anonymous venue in which to post thoughts and interests. But that defeats the purpose of the promotional author blog. Although our little circle here is kind and generous, I wonder if I might be too thin-skinned to be a blogger, like a NYT best-seller who discontinued her blog after getting crisped in an accidental flamefest. I think I’ve managed to build a shield over my fiction for critique purposes, but maintaining that facade takes a lot of energy. I’m not sure I’ve got the strength just yet to extend my mental shield to works on the blogosphere, too.

So I’m comfortable here with our little circle and feel a bit guilty that I don’t contribute more.

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