The Romance Reviews

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bitter-sweet

I moved back into my office/retreat this weekend. I gave it up to accommodate a friend who was in bad straits financially. The couple of months she said she needed to stay here turned into nearly two years but her health became so bad that her family was asked to help. She moved out about a month or so ago and I finally had a spare weekend to move back into the guest house.

While moving back in to the guest house, I kept saying, “I am NEVER giving my space up again.” I made my DH promise to remind me of this oath if I am ever tempted to relinquish my personal writing space again.

While I was moving boxes of books from the basement (where my temporary office was) I remembered I had boxes of items from my office when I taught at Indiana State University in the storage area of the guest house. Because the guest house was once more going to be my office, I started to pull those boxes out of storage. As I unpacked the boxes and sifted through the fragments of my time at ISU, there were bitter-sweet memories. I found the small mementos given to me by students and co-workers that used to hang in the fake ficus tree in my office. Two tiny pair of Chucks brought to mind one of the amazing students who worked for me in the Writing Center and her tale of attending prom in a formal gown and a pair of Chuck Taylor high tops. A hand blown glass ornament brought a smile to my face, recalling the instructor who gave that to me one Christmas. A fake apple, completely covered in brilliant red seed beads, hangs now in a window in my office, catching the light as it twists in the breezes that move through this office. A Christmas ornament with the word “JOY” carved through it was held for several long moments and I let the faces of the couple who gave that to me fill my memory for those long moments.

Hanging on the wall right next to me are two plaques from the First Year Initiative Program, thanking me for my dedication to first year student success. To earn one of these plaques, an instructor must be nominated by a freshman student. I look at them now and can only laugh at how treasured they are to me—and I don’t mean the plaques. I am referring to those students in all the sections of freshman composition I have taught. Each student was unique and special and brought something priceless to the classroom and their own writing—and that was their own voice.

I found the massive folder with my master copy of the Writing Center Tutor Training Manual, as well as the copies of many, many articles I printed out and had copied for the weekly teaching/trouble-shooting session that was held with the consultants in the Writing Center. That folder hurt. Finding that felt like a knife into my heart because that was another career path I gave up—not because I wanted to, but because through politics, I was forced to. Regrettable was one word I heard used about that situation. That still isn’t among the words I use when I think of the end of my tenure with the Writing Center.

I discovered the master copies of my prof packs that I made up for teaching freshman composition. Each pack had a section on short stories and the lively, sometimes heated discussions about those short stories flooded my thoughts. Sometimes, I know my students amazed themselves with how much they could and did get out of a short story.

Part of me wants to say that I miss being in the classroom, and yet another part of me says, “No, you don’t.” I miss the interaction with students. I miss watching at-risk students grow and strengthen in their writing abilities. I miss following the journey of a student realizing that they did have a voice, what they had to say (albeit in writing) had value, was not belittled, and a coherent argument could be made. I miss that. I miss the laughter that often filled my classroom, because I was never above admitting I can’t spell worth a darn and would have to pause while writing something on the board to think about how a word was spelled. I miss the discussions. I miss the students who challenged me to be a better instructor. I miss all of that and so much more.

I don’t miss the grading and if I could have figured out how to teach a course on composition without having to grade papers, I would have. I don’t miss the students who didn’t care and no matter what I did would not be reached. I don’t miss the politics inherent in any institution of learning. I don’t miss the late nights planning a lesson. I don’t miss the assembly line approach to higher education. Nope. I don’t miss any of that.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hold the Sparkles, Please

“You’ve seen too many Hammer films.” (Franz Ragoczy, as quoted in “Cabin 33” in The Saint-Germain Chronicles by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)

So, I wanted something a little different to read the other day, while at the same time being familiar. I started looking through my books and was dismayed to discover that I couldn’t find the six books by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro that I SWORE I had put away in boxes marked “Lynda’s Favorites: KEEP.” I’ve had these six books since before my son was born. I passed many an hour with severe morning sickness (more like all day long sickness) reading these books.

I tore the house apart looking for those six books. I was getting physically ill, wondering what I could have done with them. And I broke down when I couldn’t find them and went to Amazon to see if they were available in e-book format and if not, if I could find them for a relatively modest price through the “buy used” option. I was stunned to learn that there aren’t six books in this series now, there are 26 and the 27th is coming out in December of this year. And I thought when I had purchased Tempting Fate lo those many moons ago that was the end of the series. Apparently CQY couldn’t bear to let her most beloved character go.

I was delirious with happiness—until I realized I had twenty books to read to get caught up with the life and times of one Franz Ragoczy, le Comte de Saint-Germain. Other than Sustenance, which is being released in December, I was able to find the books either in e-book format or for pennies from used book sellers and most of those used books are former library books. Of the five I’ve received already, four of them still have their dust jackets intact. To a book-ophile…it’s heaven!

Since Sunday night, I have read four of the books in the Saint-Germain series. I LOVE these books. The historical detail makes me swoon. The plotting is incredible, and le Comte…oh, dear…

Anyone who knows me fairly well knows I loathe the Twilight series. I grew up in the glory days of Hammer Films and Christopher Lee as The Count. I don’t like my vampires sparkling (head desk). I like them suave and debonair. I didn’t like the fact that The Count held the brevity of a human in contempt, and that always bothered me about Dracula. So when I first read Hotel Transylvania way back in 1983, I fell in love with vampires, and one in particular.

Here was a vampire who treasured the brevity of the human life, went out of his way to protect those around him that he loved—even knowing that most of those humans would be gone in the proverbial blink of an eye. Here was a vampire who was not a monster, while the majority of the humanity around him was monstrous. (Yeah, even then, I was a geek and digging deeper into literary texts.) And, yes, even then, I got the eroticism and the sexual nature of the vampire, because after all, isn’t a bite a form of penetration? (All my Freudian friends are now skipping merrily along.)

If you want a vampire that doesn’t sparkle, doesn’t troll the local high-school (seriously, Edward—you’ve been dead for more than one hundred and fifty years and you’re still after high-schoolers? Not to mention, Eddie, you’re a terrible person to the oh-so-shallow Bella), doesn’t hold humanity in contempt (sorry, Vlad—but I’ve got to call ‘em as I see ‘em), and yet still maintains almost all of the archetypal characteristics of a vampire, start reading Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Saint-Germain series. This is a vampire who gets queasy when on, near, or forced to cross running water, prefers not to be in full sunlight, lived his breathing days in the Carpathian Mountains in what later became Transylvania, is so suave he makes James Bond look uncouth, and is human enough to realize his early days as a vampire give him pause and even cause him regret.

Start with Hotel Transylvania. Then, pick your next read in the series. They all stand alone. I just recommend Hotel Transylvania as a starting point because so many of the following novels incorporate Madeline into them as Saint-Germain’s confident.

Give me a non-sparkly vampire ANY DAY of the week. 

Oh, and I finally did find five of the original six books. Somehow, they'd been put into the books boxed up for a yard sale. They're now back on my book shelves.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

THANK YOU

Ever since I got home from the Collie Club of America National Specialty Show (held this year in West Springfield, MA, at the Big “E”) I’ve been struggling with a lot of things—first of all is finding a topic for this blog. Exhaustion hasn’t helped and neither has four days of dog shows three days after my return home from CCA.

At the CCA show, our little set-up was a haven from drama. We chose to make it a “drama-free zone” and for the most part, it worked. There were a few hitches, but we got through those. What I found most interesting about this year’s National was I wasn’t at all nervous about showing any dog in the set-up, including the Van-man, because I honestly had no expectation of doing anything with him. However, I was incredibly nervous to walk him into the ring and the spotlight for the Top Ten Invitational. It was worse than the first time I ever walked a dog into the group ring.
ringside candid from specials' class (photo by Johanna Lance)


For inquiring minds—here’s how I did at the Nationals. I won the American-Bred rough bitch class with a gorgeous little puppy bitch bred and owned by Joyce Weinmann of Vennessee Collie fame. (Look at just about any pedigree of the top winning collies in the past twenty years, and you’ll find a dog with the kennel name “Vennessee” on that pedigree.) Bailey—Vennessee’s Made to Order—was an utter joy to walk into the ring. In the American-bred rough dog class, I placed fourth with an exquisite tri dog—Bandor Mar-Jo’s Midnight Interlude—the Mighty Moe. In the AOAC (any other allowed color) 9 – 12 month puppy bitch class, I placed 4th with another of those lovely Vennessee collies. In the American-bred smooth bitch class, I placed second with the exquisite Bones—a striking blue girl who should sail to her championship. In the 6 – 9 month smooth puppy bitch class, I placed 4th with an angel wearing a tri-colored coat. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Glitter can play dog show with me any time, any where. I love that little girl. In the rough stud dog class, where the get and not the stud dog are evaluated, I placed second with Tucker—an impressive tri dog with a glorious coat, incredible attitude, and a beautiful outline. His get are as lovely as he is. I showed other animals, too, and even though they did not place, did me proud. There was Gracie, bred and owned by Rayleen Hendrix. I was honored to present this lovely sable rough girl. And then there was O.T.—the “Other Travis”—a very happy sable rough boy who went into the ring with his new friend Grace Hein. Even though he didn’t place, he needed to learn the ring was a fun place where he got fed a lot of cookies. Grace did a wonderful job with him. There was also Harley—who though she didn’t place, did a great job of playing dog show. I am looking forward to showing her again, too.

Oh, and Vander was select dog...
Bailey--Vennessee's Made to Order (photo by Tenna Perry)
Harley (photo by Tenna Perry)
The Mighty Moe (photo by Tenna Perry)


Now comes the very public acknowledgment of the people who helped to make this year’s National such a success and in no particular order: To David Perry, for being such a good man and doing all the heavy lifting and toting. I know Tenna is aware what a gem you are, but I also want to say you are an absolute keeper. To Jacque Bailey, for helping with the grooming, the loading, and for making Moe look like a million bucks; to Nancy Hehre for all the help your provided; to Tenna Perry for brushing and brushing and brushing; to Joyce Weinmann for those amazing head trims; to Gwen Means for making me smile; to Rayleen Hendrix for being a source of constant encouragement; to Grace Hein for everything you do; and to Laura and Shelley Bergstrausser, for providing comic relief and for giving Vander a bath the morning of smooth specials—from the bottom of my heart and with my deepest gratitude, I thank each and every one of you. My success in the ring is dependent on the assistance I receive and I am so grateful for your help but most of all for our friendship.



Friday, April 4, 2014

April is enough of a challenge....

A lot of my friends on their blogs are doing the “A to Z Blog Challenge.” In a nutshell, that challenge is for the month of April, every day except for Sunday, a blog post has to be written for each letter of the alphabet. While I would love the challenge, April is not a month that I would ever attempt this.

There’s a reason for my inability to commit to a blog post for 26 consecutive days—most years, the Collie Club of America national show usually falls in April. That means April is somewhere between totally insane and OMFG! I will never get everything done before I have to leave for wherever the nationals are held this year. I just can’t commit to that kind of time and at the Nationals, I often don’t even have time to call my DH until well after midnight. And, he just isn’t very talkative when I wake him from a sound sleep after the witching hour.

Speaking of the witching hour, this year at the Nationals marks a first for me. I’ve been involved with this incredible breed and the craziness which is dog shows for thirty-five years. I’ve campaigned dogs before, but I never got a dog into the top ten for the year—until this year. I came close several times: twice with a big, tri smooth dog named “Boots” who left HUGE paw prints on my heart when he went to the Rainbow Bridge, and once with a lovely blue smooth bitch who was known as “Magic” and she truly was magic. But this year, my boy Vander will be in the ring on Wednesday night  (April 9) under the spot-lights.

Vander, known officially as Grand Champion Bandor’s The Wyching Hour, finished 2013 as the # 6 dog—all systems. And, because Vander is going to be at the Collie Club of America’s national specialty show, it means I’ll be there, too.

All this means I won’t be on the internet much next week. I’ll try to log on to check e-mail, maybe do a cursory check of Facebook, but I won’t have time to blog daily, like the A to Z Challenge would require.
So, to everyone doing that challenge, I wish you luck. I’ll catch up on the blogs when I’ve recovered from five days of being immersed in the best the collie fancy has to offer, and four days total of driving to and from this show.

Have a great week and I’ll let everyone know how we did at the collie nationals.


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