Thursday, November 29, 2012

"To Dance with the White Dog" -- a Southern Delight

             Terry Kay’s To Dance with the White Dog was the Circle of Friends book selection for November. From the discussion, I gathered everyone enjoyed this book as much as they enjoyed Cheryl’s delectable chicken pot pie (recipe to come later) and Brenda’s decadent brownies. I know I did.

            Kay is a southern writer, and the story is set in the south. I don’t know why I’m just now learning about him, as his first book was published in 1979, and he has written several books and won many awards. To Dance... was published in 1991 and made into a Hallmark movie in 1993. But somehow he managed to slip under my love-of-all-things-southern radar. Now that I’ve discovered him, I’ll be reading more of his works.

            The Friends liked that Kay—at least in this book—imparts southern “charm” and not southern “crazy.” Not that we’re totally opposed to southern crazy, but once in a while it’s good to let the rest of the country know we’re not all down here eating fried butter on a stick or entering our toddlers in beauty pageants. And we liked it because it is a “sweet” story. It has conflicts and an engaging plot but without the violence, hatred, and angst that’s prevalent in a lot of literature.

             I personally liked To Dance with the White Dog because it is a story about love—love for a spouse, love for children, love for parents, and, yes, love for a dog. And I think that last love is what made the story resonate strongly with me. In the protagonist’s relationship with his dog, I saw much of my own father’s situation. Over the past few years, my dad’s mental state has rapidly declined, and he bears little resemblance to the person he used to be. He is still a fairly easy-going, contented individual, but he remembers only snatches of his past. His children and grandchildren are strangers to him most of the time. His verbal communication skills are all but lost. Sandy, his mixed-breed German shepherd, is his constant companion. My mother and my sister take good care of him, but Sandy keeps him grounded in a world which must seem to grow increasingly confusing. She keeps him moving as he struggles to take her on walks. She sits patiently by his side for endless hours. And because a rub behind the ears and a responding lick on the hand communicate everything, no conversation is required, 

            Kay poignantly reflects his understanding of this man/dog bond in his book. He also addresses the challenges of growing old, the problems of dealing with an aging parent, the awkwardness of reversing the parent/child role. And he does it with respect, compassion, and humor. Even if you’re not a dog-lover (or a southerner), there is much to enjoy and contemplate in To Dance with the White Dog

PS  My mother takes this relationship in stride. One time someone said to her, "Gladys, I think Joe thinks more of his dog than he does of you." Her reply: "Oh, I know he does. He doesn't kiss me goodnight and tell me what a pretty girl I am!"             


Saturday, November 17, 2012


I was slow in following through on my previous money-making inspirations—a dome-shaped umbrella and an adult-sized sleep sack—and, consequently, missed out on making a boat load of money. But recently, a sure-fire idea came to me, and this time I’m not dragging my feet. With this post, I’m taking immediate action to cash in on my revolutionary idea, Rent-a-Toddler.
            Being a Baby Boomer, I’m well aware of two pressing needs of my generation: exercise and sleep. And having spent the past week caring for my two-year-old grandson, Brooks, I’ve received the equivalent of Insanity workouts during the days and slept like a hibernating bear at nights. Since the number one principle behind business success is identifying and meeting needs, what could make more sense than renting toddlers to Boomers?
The logic behind this concept is so obvious I’m amazed no one thought of it sooner. It’s  a win-win-win situation for all involved. For less than the cost of a gym membership or a personal trainer, Boomers can rent a toddler for any specified amount of time and get the best exercise and sleep of their lives. I also can assure Boomers that, for no extra charge, they’ll receive valuable boosts to their mental well-being. I mean, how often does your yoga instructor’s face break into a huge smile when you enter the room? Or when was the last time your boot camp instructor grabbed you around the knees and said, “I wuv you”? Toddlers will benefit from this program as well. They will get the undivided attention of a responsible, doting adult while they go about their play, and the money their parents make on rentals and save on daycare can go into their college fund. As for me, I’ll make a killing off a small processing and handling fee for bringing the parties together. Brilliant!
So don’t delay and miss out on this fantastic opportunity. If you’re a Boomer, let me know how many days a week and at what times you would like to schedule a toddler. (If you’re looking for an extreme workout, I can get you two at the same time but don’t recommend it without a physical and doctor’s approval.) If you’re a mom, let me know how often you would like to rent out your toddler(s). And if you’re looking for a lucrative business opportunity, contact me about a franchise.
Note: All toddlers will come with a handbook of recommended exercises. But, being toddlers, they will probably ignore it and do exactly what they like. However, here are a few exercises you can try:
To strengthen your core, try the uphill stroller press. You can use one of those fancy jogging strollers,
but the umbrella model will intensify your workout.
Forget an expensive Stairmaster. Thirty to forty trips a day up and down the stairs, will tighten the glutes.(I realize this picture isn't good advertising for that, but bear in mind I've only been following this regimen for a week and the camera adds ten pounds!)
Ride-a-little-pony leg lifts will give you quads of steel. Not recommended for those with knee problems.
Pumping a swing instead of iron will quickly firm up those underarm flip-flappers!