Thoughts on Epidemics and Flu-Revisited

Spanish Flu of 1918

Conversations world wide are focused on the new coronovirus and the pervasive flu season. Headlines and news reports keep a running tally of who is sick and where. We are rightly concerned. But we need to keep this in perspective, study what can be improved in societal responses and take the opportunity to have some important conversations with our elders. I wrote about this a couple years ago in regard to the regular flu season but the topic bears revisiting. We have much to learn from the past and from our ancestors’ reactions to the sweeping illnesses that have always plagued humans.

It’s important to study how we’ve handled past flu epidemics, outbreaks of polio, measles and smallpox. How have we dealt with restrictions and helped each other as decent human beings; individually, and as families and communities?

The word “pandemic” has such an inescapable connotation and creates fear. However, another word that repeatedly comes out of historic references and family letters is this:


It is used to describe how ordinary, sometimes fearful human beings, reach down deep and by the grace of God find the courage and resilience to not only face world changing events but to help those in direst need.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  created a project called the  Pandemic Influenza Storybook to document experience and provide a learning tool.

“The CDC’s Pandemic Flu Storybook provides readers with a look at the impact pandemic flu events have had on both survivors and the families and friends of non-survivors. These stories are not folklore, but personal recollections. This collection of stories was first released in 2008 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the 1918 flu pandemic.”

You can read Sadie’s true story here:

This is the story of the 1918 flu pandemic as told by my 97–year–old grandmother, Sadie Afraid of His Horses–Janis. An excerpt from the story:

In her desperation, my great–grandmother, Nancy, had applied the principals of quarantine, prevented cross–contamination, provided hydration and inhalation therapy, and used pharmacology to save her family. To this day, my grandmother Sadie has a medicine bag with flat cedar, sweet grass, bitter–root, and green tea. However, she says she′ll pass on the kerosene and sugar.

Olivia Huggins father was a newborn when the flu hit his family:

My dad, Manual Pacheco, was born on July 10, 1918 to Juan de Jesus and Amelia Pacheco in Rainsville, New Mexico. He was their sixth child. When Manual was only 2 months old, his mother, Amelia became ill with the flu. Because she was so sick, she was unable to produce breast milk for Manual. Therefore, Juan fed the baby coffee with sugar added to it until he was able to purchase a goat. The goat’s milk sustained Manual and he survived, and so did his mother. No one else in the family became ill.

I can’t help but wonder if Juan had a terrible time getting that little boy to sleep after dosing him with coffee. However, it was a resourceful solution till the goat showed up.

Here’s another one from the CDC’s website, this one taking place in Wyoming and told by Margarita Pancake:

My father, Elmer “Bud” Pancake, grew up around Lusk, Wyoming. During the great flu pandemic of 1918, there was a county doctor who boasted that he had never lost a patient. His secret weapon was “rotgut” whiskey. He would pour the whiskey into a patient to get them to cough up the phlegm. During the pandemic, he ran out of whiskey and there was none to be had in the community. The only whiskey in Lusk was locked–up in the sheriff′s office as evidence for a bootlegger′s trial. The sheriff refused to release the liquor. So, the doctor got a few prominent citizens together for a kind of vigilante committee that promptly seized the whiskey, depriving the sheriff of his evidence.

An excerpt from storyteller Jack D. Bell, who experienced the flu in Washington in 1958 as a kid:

And, I simply was too uncomfortable to sleep! At one point, I kept asking my poor momma if I was going to die and I told her if this kept up much longer that I didn’t care if I died! I can remember my parents discussing whether they should send me to the hospital, but our family doctor (who actually came to our house; remember when doctors did that?!) told us that my fever would break any time, and I would feel much better. He was right, on the third day I stopped vomiting and got a few hours of sleep. When I woke up, my wonderful mom fed me some chicken soup—my favorite, and I kept it down. I missed about a week of school, which I didn’t mind.

Although medical treatments have changed and progressed, much of the simple homing nursing care remains the same and goes a long ways towards helping folks recover. Many of us have experienced the flu running through the entire household and it can truly be said to be a family bonding experience. I bet you still talk about it and I bet your family learned some important coping skills during the process.

Bottom line, wash your hands, take precautions, learn from history and be resilient and courageous. Threats we will always have with us. What you do in the face of it will show your stripes. I choose courage and an indomitable spirit.

Many of us have parents, grandparents or friends who can remember flu, measles or polio scares. Talk to them about how it impacted their lives, schools, and communities. Learn from their resilience, their resourcefulness and step up to the plate if you’re needed.

May you stay healthy and well this flu season and most of all may you be of good courage no matter what you face,


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Kick Start Your Story With a Resource Roundup

Memoirs are popular reading around the globe and extending the reach of your story beyond family and friends can be a good option in some cases. I’ve been traveling the last few days but wanted to be sure to get this and some other tips out to you at the start of the year. And not just any year, a new decade!

Many of you have decided that this will be the year to make progress on your story. Perhaps you’ve realized that time is extra precious for your 90 year old grandparents and you want to help them tell theirs. Whatever the case — I want to encourage you, you can do this!

A couple weeks ago Lisa J. Michaels, teacher, illustrator and author at, sent me a note:

 “I found this link and I thought I’d share it with your readers, as it is a list of publishers who accept manuscripts from authors without agents….”

Thanks for sharing this resource, Lisa! Remember, if you’re like many memoirists, you also have a couple great children’s book ideas floating around in your mental inbox or languishing in your desk. Just for inspirational fun check out Lisa’s series on children’s book creation via Skillshare. The first in the series is Creating Characters Kids Love

Wouldn’t it be great to finally create that book as a gift for your kids and grandkids?

Want to kick start your journaling this year? Try author and teacher Nina Vangrew’s One Sentence a Day Journal Card System. It’s fun and this easy to build habit will painlessly help you build your memoir a bit at a time. Ideas and story snippets add up fast! You can easily take her class in less than an hour on Skillshare and enjoy starting your life story journaling.

The publishing world is full of memoirs with a variety of themes appealing to a wide range of people. I love reading them and typically have several in my line-up for the year. Your story may have broader appeal that would be a great fit for making public so many others can enjoy it.

Many memoir writers consider independent or self-publishing to be an excellent choice. This gives you full creative control and you’ll have the option to publish it privately for family and friends, or list it on Amazon or through other book outlets.

At the start of this new decade consider reviewing a few options to make progress on your personal history project:

  1. Take a look at the list of publishers in the link Lisa provided
  2. Try out Nina’s one sentence journaling technique
  3. Spend half an hour watching my class — It’s Time to Tell Your Story: Quick Start a Memoir
  4. Sign up for a memoir coaching session
  5. Set up your memoir box to start collecting your material

Start small or go big, the choice is yours! But whatever you do, commit to making some positive incremental change and see how much you can accomplish this year. Even better, team up with some friends for encouragement.


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If You Give a Wild Thing a Taco

I’ve made a discovery! Many people interested in writing their memoirs also have wonderful children’s stories they’ve shared with their kids over the years. They talk about these with a grin, a gleam in their eyes and laughter as they recall the fun of creating these special stories for their children. They confess that their kids have always told them they should make a book with those favorite tales. My family and I have our own collection of made-up stories but I’ll save those for another day.

To learn more about the art and process of children’s book creation, I’ve been watching a few of Lisa Michael’s Skillshare classes. Michaels is an award winning professional freelance illustrator and author as well as a skilled teacher. You can take a look at her profile here:

After sharing my observations about memoir clients and their children’s stories with Lisa she responded with additional insight into the “why” of this phenomenon. You can find out more about her at Lisa Michaels She graciously agreed to share her thoughts so here you go:

It makes complete sense. A large percentage of children’s books are based on the author’s childhood experiences. You know the old saying…”Write what you know!”…it’s so true.

As I’m sure you know, personal experience adds authenticity to the work, and gives a good writer the ability to make you (the reader) feel that you are a participant in the story, rather than an onlooker. Not to mention, most memories have strong emotions attached to them, which also enriches the story.

I find that stories written from childhood memories (even if they are outlandishly embellished) make for the best children’s books because the author usually isn’t looking to “teach a lesson”. They are simply hoping to share a wonderful or touching experience that they believe still has value for today’s kids. That’s one of the very BEST reason to write a children’s book!

Below are links you can follow to Lisa’s classes on Skillshare. They’ll enable you to learn from her and many others for two free months with a trial Premium Membership. You have nothing to lose and much great professional, fun guidance in store. I highly recommend it! (disclosure – although I will receive a small commission if you sign up, I only recommend classes I’ve taken myself and found exceptionally useful).

Writing a Picture Book/Part One – Creating Characters Kids Love

Writing a Picture Book/Part Two – Gathering Story ideas

Writing a Picture Book/Part Three – Building Blocks

These courses are excellent resources in developing further ideas for my own children’s book concepts as well as helpful when I visit with clients who have their own fun, fabulous tales to share.

Try your hand at jotting down some of your kids’ favorite bed-time stories. Then, visit with them about the characters and sketch out a few ideas for the artwork. You’ll have loads of fun together and create new memories from the old ones.

May you find joy in life today!


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Post Thanksgiving Rituals

No Black Friday sales for this girl! My favorite post-Thanksgiving ritual is a giant slab of pumpkin pie slathered in whipped cream for breakfast. I did the crazy early sale day once as a very pregnant young mom decades ago in Wisconsin because we were b-r-o-k-e. Never. Again. However, no judgment here, if you get a kick out of the shopping frenzy, more power to you, enjoy! I may come watch It’s a Wonderful Life on your new big-screen TV. Promise I’ll bring pie! What kind of post-feast rituals are a tradition at your house?

Here at Remembering the Time you won’t be seeing a crash sale on the one-of-a-kind experience of writing your life story. However, I can promise you that if you choose to set out on this journey, you’ll never regret it. My heart and soul are thrown into these life-affirming projects for you. It will be an amazing experience of great satisfaction and tremendous value to both you and your family.

Here’s an interesting thought on Thanksgiving. The original potluck saw the Native Americans and the pilgrims celebrating a shared thankfulness and humanity while their two very different cultures rubbed shoulders. We are all Americans—in fact, I am a “Heinz 57”—a little bit of everything and proud of it. Bet many of you are too! So, while you’re still gathering with family this weekend, think about the specific culture you hail from – whether it’s your ethnic group or just a different part of the US. Spend an hour filling out your family’s story by asking a few great questions about your heritage and writing down favorite family recipes. Save the story and pay it forward to the next generation.

Here’s heartfelt gratitude to you from me for reading these simple thoughts throughout the year!  


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On the Frontlines with Layla, Canine Drama Queen – Part 2

And now, the rest of the story…

The post card had been sitting on my counter for a good two weeks, taunting me, a reminder of the impending doom; Layla’s shots were due. The vaccines weren’t the problem and she loves the vet and her staff. She knows when we leave, McDonalds is approximately 500 feet away and that’s where her “good girl cheeseburger” lives; so she’s totally cool with a vet appointment. The issue lies with the location.

So although Layla is cool with the vet appointment, for my husband and me there is not enough Xanex in the universe to manage our dread and anxiety surrounding taking all three dogs to the vet. Actually, it’s just Layla.

The waiting room is full of all sorts of other animals waiting for their turn along with a veritable bouquet of new and interesting smells. Either of us would rather substitute an unsedated colonoscopy for this experience. Nevertheless, it must be done, and I have drawn the short straw.

The morning of the appointment comes. I have readied myself mentally and emotionally; repeating my “taking Layla to the vet” mantra:  “I will stay calm, all dogs have to start somewhere, she’s gotten a lot better, I will stay calm when she loses her everlovin’ mind, I will calmly hold her leash as she throws her epic tantrum as long as I have to until she regains her sanity, I will stay calm because she senses my anxiety and humiliation, I will stay calm, I will stand firm, I will not be bullied”, I repeat to myself like a fighter readying for combat.

I find her sleeping peacefully on the reading couch in the living room, one of maybe three places in the whole house she’s not allowed to be. Despite her disobedient location, I melt at the adorable scene in front of me. “This is why she’s not dead yet,” I think to myself, “Her cuteness and soft heart have been enough to save her so far.” 

I call her name, knowing full-well that she will not wake up and get off the reading couch with just this level of stimulation; yet I continue to dream that someday she will and so I try. As predicted, she doesn’t budge, her snoring stops and I see her eyebrows wiggle a bit, a sure sign that she’s heard me calling her name but is choosing to ignore me completely. Knowing she’s in trouble because of her chosen sleep location, she refuses to acknowledge my presence, secure in her belief that if she doesn’t look at you when she’s done something naughty then surely you will not see her or attempt to scold her.

Layla Couch Surfing

Long minutes later, I’ll spare you the begging and pleading, she cracks open a reluctant eye. Then, feeling sorry for herself, and looking absolutely pathetic before Jell-O-sliding off her perch, she gives her whole body a mighty ear-flapping shake, and then loudly, with a healthy dose of dramatic flair, collapses in a heap on the floor.

It ain’t my first rodeo, I’ve had lots of practice putting on Layla’s collar and leash when she’s in full pout, so I bend down, ignore her whines and outraged sound effects, get everything situated, and we walk out the door. At the car I open the back hatch. I have seen Layla clear a six foot fence like a reindeer once when she escaped from a friend’s yard, so both my husband and I know without a shadow of a doubt that she can jump the 2.5 feet into the back of the SUV. But she never has.

The ride to the vet is equally as vocal, as Layla spots other interesting things outside, and smashes her nose against allllllllll the windows while also drooling on them as she cries and whines, howl/talks, and paces to and fro in the back.

Pulling into the vet’s parking lot, I gather my courage and emotional Zen, repeating my mantra a couple more times and then get out to retrieve The Naughty One. Opening the hatch very slowly, I grope for the leash before the Kraken is released and makes a run for it. It’s caught under her massive paw, and she refuses to move so I have to open the hatch all the way. Distracted, I didn’t notice another person also walking their small dog across the parking lot. Layla, however, noticed, and leapt out of the car like Superman on a trajectory straight to the other creature. Flailing wildly in a frantic attempt to grab leash, collar, ears or anything, I briefly cried out in delight as my fingers closed around the leash. Satisfaction succumbed to blinding pain has Layla’s rock-hard bony skull collided with my nose!

Eyes watering my vision blurred, I couldn’t see anything but could still hear Layla’s urgent song of yelps, whines, barks, and howls as she was still hell-bent on reaching her new BFF. I kept a death grip on the leash and braced for the jerk when the obnoxious torpedo reached the end of her line. I struggled to hold my nose, wipe my eyes, get my bearings, and regain control of my life all while shouting at my horribly misbehaving fur terror to STOP IT! Flustered and angry, through gritted teeth I growled out “HEEL STUPID!” As I extended my free hand to grab the door, I felt the blood trickling down my face.

Torpedo dog was already bounding through the door; I had no choice but to follow. I stood, blood trickling down my face, free hand attempting to wipe the blood away and pinch my nose simultaneously, eyes still watering from pain and now humiliation, my sweet doggo clutched by my side. Layla is in full-on drama display, the noise level escalating by the second. Perfect. What else will go wrong? Experience has taught me to just wait and that question will be answered quickly. It took less than 3 minutes.

Layla announced our arrival to remote villages in the Amazon. The wonderful woman behind the counter rushed around to hand me a wet paper towel, told me she knew just who I was and had already signed Layla in, and offered to take her while I cleaned myself up. Hesitant but ever so grateful, I handed her to the angel and rushed off to attempt to repair what looked like a five round loss to Tyson.

The nosebleed stopped quickly, but I would have a beauty of a fat lip for a couple days. Mascara pooled below my eyes for a trendy, ghoulish look and whatever lipstick I had on was gone. Overall I was just a dumpster fire. I wiped away what I could, smoothed back my hair, accepted that the best I could look was Spanish Flu Chic, and hurried back to save that poor woman from Layla’s reign of terror. Layla was mercifully around the back of the counter, a bit calmer. Gushing apologies and thanks, I grabbed Layla’s leash, and proceeded with my walk of shame across the entire lobby to a remote corner. Layla was quieter but still attempting to flatten herself and ooze in the direction of the nearby puppy.

Infinite mercy! Layla’s name was called and the techs told me they’d just take her back quickly, and return her to me afterwards. My traitorous canine became the picture of innocence. She stood up calmly, leaned against the tech’s legs for extra cuddles and pets, walked past all the other animals without even making a sound or moving a millimeter in their direction, and sauntered away. “Awwwww, see? You’re a good girl, you just want to talk to all of us and got excited,” cooed the tech as she scratched Layla’s ears and they walked to the back. My mouth hung open like some sort of trophy bass, my blood pressure reached aneurysm levels, and I felt like a steam-blowing cartoon character.

I sat back on the bench, closed my eyes, and took some calming breaths. She‘s just a dog, surely she can’t plan things like this? Surely she’s not capable of that level of diabolic calculation? 

A few minutes later, my name was called and I walked to the counter to pay, relief flooding through me. In a few short minutes the three-ring circus of hell would be contained within the car and not on public display as would my Homeless Cagefighter appearance. The tech brought Layla, still acting like a perfect angel, around the counter as I gave my credit card to the receptionist. Absentmindedly, I reached for the leash but didn’t get my usual death grip. Rookie mistake. Just as I was turning to leave, Satan took possession of Layla and she lunged at another dog who barked at her. Growling and howling, my floppy eared demon tried to engage in some sort of cage fight with this other much smaller, but infinitely meaner dog.

In the ensuing chaos I didn’t register who was on the other end of the smaller dog; I was focusing on yanking Layla back and managing my shock. It’s extremely rare that she displays any hint of aggression! No one was hurt, thank all the gods, and at this point the distance between my sanity and an all out Jerry Springer White Girl Nuclear Meltdown was the width of a neutron; I HAD to get out of there! The universe must have sensed me teetering on the edge just then; because it decided to seal my fate by just giving me a good hard shove the rest of the way.

Head down, tears of humiliation threatening to spill down my cheeks, abandoning all sense of decorum as I let fly a string of words that would make a sailor blush, I drag The Naughty One toward the freedom waiting just past the door of the clinic. “Come on Missy, come on now, let’s get away from that awful dog, that’s a good girl,” I heard a voice say. I stopped dead in my tracks, absolutely certain I know that voice from somewhere. Risking the last vestiges of self respect and sanity, I turned around to see who dared insult my Layla when it was their dog that started it and also to confirm the identity of the owner of The Voice. The little voice in the back of my head screamed at me, begging me not to turn around, pleading with me, but I disobeyed. I found myself standing face to face with my old boss.

Now usually this wouldn’t have been a horrible thing, after all, many people have several old bosses and it wouldn’t be a big deal to see each other in passing. That was not the case with this guy; the manner in which I left that particular position and the subsequent events that unraveled in the following months were less than ideal. In fact, they were unpleasant and uncivil. So the fact that my first run-in with this man involved my dog trying to fight his dog while I looked like something drug from the gutter after a bar room brawl, could NOT have been a worse way for it all to go down!

Recognition dawned on both of us simultaneously, and we stood for a split second in extremely awkward silence. Layla, bless her naughty soul, quickly pulled me from the standoff as she again with a howl/whine attempted to defend her honor as the other small dog charged her with teeth bared. With lightening speed, I pivoted, saving everyone from another incident and escaped into the sunshine.

I won’t lie to you and say that I didn’t call Layla some names on the way to the car that frankly insulted her ancestry and called into question my understanding of how biology actually worked in the context of reproduction. But I also won’t lie to you and tell you that she didn’t get an extra “good girl cheeseburger” on the way home or that I didn’t giggle just a little too much at the fear I witnessed on my former boss’ face. I will however admit that when I got home, I walked straight inside the house without releasing Layla from car jail and sent my dear husband out to deal with her. I didn’t know if I possessed enough self restraint not to kill her if she tried any shenanigans. My dear husband started to question why I was interrupting what he was doing to make him go outside and get her, until he looked at my face. The crazed look in my eye and the slight twitch manifesting above my left eyebrow, and my swelling lip wisely turned him on his heel and sent him outside.

Author–Nicole Garcia

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On the Frontlines with Layla, Canine Drama Queen

Guest Blog by Nicole Garcia, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who runs, in what little spare time she has, a growing photography business (NicsPics). (Note: PNP and NicsPics professional contact is Nicole Oswalt.) She’s a wife, a dog mom to three dinosaurs, er, dogs, and considers herself some sort of crazy bad luck magnet. She says, “If something is going to happen or go wrong, it will happen and/or fall apart to/with me; though thankfully the trend seems to be in hilarious (to others) and truly baffling ways versus true tragedies!” As you think about all the ways your pets play a role in your family and consider sharing their stories, welcome to Nicole’s world.

On the Frontlines with Layla, Canine Drama Queen – PART 1

My dogs, though they are oh-so-very-loved and spoiled rotten to the core, are the source of many of my disaster stories. This is one of those tales. Sit back, relax, grab a cup of whatever your poison is at the moment, and enjoy a laugh or ten thousand at my expense.

My dear husband (fiancé at that time) had been talking about getting a dog for a bit, which really meant I was begging and pleading to get all the puppies I saw, and yesterday couldn’t have been soon enough. I have the patience of a four year old on pixie sticks and the stubbornness and persistence of an ancient mule, so needless to say, the decision was made to get a puppy!

Layla, a soon-to-be five-year-old pure bred bloodhound, was a wedding present from great friends of ours. As the runt of the litter she hadn’t found a forever home by nine months old and was a surprise to us. That should have been a sign from the universe, a warning that she might not be the sweet, adorable thing she appeared to be. We were smitten with this creature made up of feet, skin, and allllllllll the ears. What an amazing adventure life with her would surely be.

We figured out with lightening speed that all of our plans for training our new addition; taking her places and doing all the right things were going up in flames faster than an explosion at an oxygen tank factory! Our Layla had the body of a bloodhound, temperament of the ultimate mamma, intellect of a post, attitude of a thousand toddlers, personality of Cybil, and the willingness to obey or listen of the wind.

In Layla’s world, danger has many forms. Vacuum is her most hated foe, followed very closely by Bath. Blowing leaves, odd noises, a plastic bag that is too near to her bubble, her little brother’s flatulence; all just a few of the many forms of danger that Layla endures regularly. She is the sweetest dog imaginable; if any small human is within a one thousand mile radius, she howls and whines until she can mamma them until they want to throw themselves off a cliff! She does NOT tolerate allowing small humans to cry and gets incredibly upset if she sees them doing anything remotely dangerous, whining and speeding to the nearest larger human to alert them of this danger so that it may be addressed.

However, where her small humans are concerned, danger lurks everywhere; on the sidewalk, on the trampoline, and especially within twenty feet of any stairs. Diaper changes, sitting down unaccompanied, standing unsupervised, eating anything, all first require her  quality control efforts to ensure that diapers won’t attack and food isn’t poisoned. Oddly though, she knows no strangers and would happily greet an intruder wielding a bloody machete with a nuzzle, pawing at them for scratches as she dutifully shows them all the good stuff.

Take a moment some time, to peruse Amazon for all of the doggie behavioral tools, sprays, deterrents, leashes, collars, books, etc. There are some amazing inventions to help combat the gamut of issues you may encounter with your fur baby. Trust me, I’ve tried them all! None of them have been bloodhound tested……I assure you……not a single one. Layla does what she wants, when she wants, and though we try our best not to let this happen, she usually finds a way. When she is caught, she looks you dead in the eye with her tongue lolling out of her mouth and her fat alligator tail wagging, and then walks over so that you may pet her. No remorse. No shame. Is there a fresh hole in the yard wide and deep enough that you’re convinced lava will come pouring out any second? Layla. Come home to find the trash, a favorite of that bloodhound nose and terrorist urges, scattered everywhere throughout the house because you dared leave her for over fifteen minutes while it was dark outside? Layla. And I bet you even money, she will be found, still chewing on or eating a treasure from her trash diving mission, with her tail thumping against the floor as you search the house to find her. Then as you’re cleaning up her mess, she will follow you, happily wagging her tail and bumping her head against you to demand cuddles since you’re already on the ground.

Missing dirty socks or underpants? What about a favorite make up sponge or key chain with something fluffy or soft on it? Layla. The fluffy will be torn to microscopic shreds. Undergarments and makeup sponges will usually be found cradled gently in her mouth as she goes to “hide” in her kennel or on her cushion. Or guarded between her two giant front paws as she snores peacefully.

When you retrieve the object, she looks at you as if you had truly murdered a child in front of her, but doesn’t growl or nip. If looks could kill, we would all have long ago left this world. She will then, with a mighty and dramatic hrrrrrrrmph, lift her bulk from its resting state of shapeless flesh, and waddle in the sassiest of ways to the nearest human she can find, to tattle on the offending individual.

Many people assume that I, like so many other crazy dog people, exaggerate the traits and behaviors of my beloved naughty terror. That I assign to her human actions, emotions, or motivation, but that she is truly nothing more than a spoiled fur baby who exists as any other dog does. I understand these assumptions; I don’t fault people for them. After all, no one could really be expected to believe this dog is as ridiculous as described, or that she does things like tattle, pout, throw tantrums, give dirty looks, or dole out a cold shoulder when she’s been scolded. Yet, these things do happen

A flair for the dramatic is also something Layla could teach lessons on to even the most skilled of classically trained actors. She is dramatic in all ways, at all times, and in the worst possible moments; but all her naughty powers of drama and tantrum are on full display when she’s wearing a special collar her trainer recommended  that’s helping her learn not to pull and there are other animals around.

The collar did MIRACLES for the pulling/yanking/dragging problem, and quickly Layla learned to walk nicely on her leash, comfortable and sassy, while we were no longer in danger of paying for an Orthopedic Surgeon’s yacht with the shoulder replacements we would surely need after much longer. But……Layla is not to be thwarted. She has no manners when it comes to other animals. She’s not aggressive at all, she just goes from useless lump of sleepy stubborn dog (her normal state), to yelping, crying, howling desperately, jumping, flailing, alligator rolling on the ground, shrieking, and lunging toward the unsuspecting creature in her dramatic attempt to say “hello” and play!

After almost five years of this struggle, she now agrees to sit much more quickly, but FAR from more quietly! Layla wails and howls, whines, throws herself on the ground in attempts to melt into the floor and gain the ability to ooze herself sneakily toward the new creature. In short, she throws a full-on drama queen toddler tantrum at the top her lungs. Nothing quiets this display. It can be heard from space! The Naughty One knows how heartless and cruel her evil owners appear in these moments. She can sense the def-con 56 level of mortification her girl human is experiencing and the fact that her boy human lost the will to live in the first twenty seconds of the fit. She LIVES for this! And it always works. Inevitably, crowds will surround her, full of coos and baby talk, they will coddle and cuddle, pet and scratch, all while assuring her that she’s not doing anything wrong and she’s just guilty of “wanting to make friends”. Another inevitable truth is that in the midst of the throng, will sit the sassiest most self-satisfied dog to ever walk the Earth, soaking up all the affection and sympathy. She will turn to look her humans in the eye with a gloating smile and the thumping of that alligator tail. Game, set, match. Layla emerges victorious yet again.  

This background is necessary so that you can understand the following story… (to be continued) Thanks for hanging with me this long!

(Note: Photos courtesy of NicsPics)

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Craft a Fabulous Family Quote Collection

Does your family have favorite sayings or expressions? It might be a funny Mom-ism or “Daddy always said…” that rattles around in your brain. It may make you laugh (or cry) and think “Oh my gosh, I’ve become my parent!” Keep your sense of humor and perk up your ears about those quips/jokes/family expressions. They make fantastic fodder for memory photo books with a charming mix of serious and humorous.

Quotes are one of my favorite parts about developing personal histories. I listen for the words and favorite stories clients enjoy recalling. I’ll watch faces, listen to voices, feel the emotion behind the memories. These words that are then gathered into marvelous “pull quotes” in their book. These are the words family members flag, dog-earing the page so they can find it quickly. They bring laughter, almost always start a “remember when…” session and sometimes cause a few tears. They stir emotion, the hallmark of a good story.

Working for the second time with a lovely client in Santa Fe, involved finding the perfect bit of text to accent her collection of family letters in Dear Sis…WWII Letters. I love the satisfaction of getting this just right when the author reads their book draft and says, “Oh, how did you know? That’s perfect!”

It’s all about listening with your heart.

Here’s a unique gift idea you can make yourself:

Family quote book—gather the pithy, the goofy, the advice or unique sayings of your family members. You can craft a handmade version, work one up on the computer or use an online service like Shutterfly. It’s easy to find coupons that make them quite affordable and the end product is stunning.

Gather up 20-30 of these memorable quotes, phrases, jokes  or expressions; mix it up to really express the variety that is your unique family or focus in on one person. Select a photo from your family collection to illustrate each quote. Then, artfully place the photos and quotes to best showcase each. Probably one image per quote is a good guideline, but you might do a simple collage on a few pages for visual variety.

Here’s a few of my favorite partial quotes from some of my client’s books. (Author’s initials are at the beginning) They make you want to read the rest of the story, don’t they?

DM, Dear Sis…WWII Letters (available on Amazon):

 “He lettered the nickname Gadgen across the side”

“…a person lives with his memories to a great extent”

 DM, Strong Threads:

I had been impacted by the history that flashed across my young life.

He really fell in love with my horse.

BR, This is My Story and I’m Sticking to It:

It was the custom to send the three little boys to the movies on Sunday afternoon. December 7, 1941 was no different.

It was the first time in their life they had electricity for Christmas.

G & C R, Memories:

Forget the Doctor’s office, go to the hospital!

Do Not stick your hand in there, they are very aggressive!

I used to like camping but the Army kind of spoiled me in that.

BH, The First 90 Years

We stacked our mattresses on the truck and sat on top down Highway 66 and we got off in Scottsdale, Arizona.

G, Gallegos por Vida:

All the children went to school barefoot.

Once the shoe went flying it was time to wrap it up.

Quote books make beautifully memorable gifts, try creating one and give it to someone you love this Christmas or at their next birthday. Once you make one you’ll be hooked on the idea. You’ll be creating a uniquely piece of memorable art that they’ll treasure and enjoy.

Coming up next week- a peek behind the scenes on a personal history project!

Thanks for reading,


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Please contact me for more information or to to schedule a free consultation. I look forward to visiting with you.

Karen Ray Photo

Karen Ray

Address: 2877 Willow Creek Lane, Las Cruces, NM, 88007

Phone: 575-323-1048