The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Posts tagged ‘dog’

An Interview with Susan Landis-Steward

Q. When did you decide to become a writer?

A. When I was four. I wrote poems which my father translated from hieroglyphs and stored in my grandmother’s German Bible. One was about a star.

Q. Your grandmother was German?

A. Well, her Bible was. I assume she was. Her last name was Rugenstein. You do the math. My father also said she was Jewish. She was dead by the time I came along. But she married a Mennonite, and they raised their kids Lutheran. You figure it out. I gave up trying to understand my family a long time ago. That’s probably another reason I write.

Q. So you just started a publishing company. What do you know about publishing?

A. More than you might think. I’m a few credits away from a Masters in Publishing. And I’ve been working in the industry for several years as an indexer. Oh, and I’ve had some stuff published. Besides, I chose great business partners.

Q. You write lesbian mysteries?

A. Yes.

Q. ?

A. You asked the question. I just answered it.

Q. Why lesbian mysteries?

A. Write what you know. I’m mysterious and lesbian. I’m also neurotic so my characters are neurotic. My mysteries are fairly autobiographical in many ways, but only those who really know me know which parts are me.

Q. Do you have a dog?

A. What kind of lesbian would I be if I didn’t have a dog? My dog is a Jack Russell Terrier/English Springer Spaniel mix named Good Dog Gwyneth. She’s a pound puppy. She thinks my partner is God. I am merely a door and can opener. Unless I’m going somewhere in the car. Then I become a temporary demiurge.

Q. Why do you use words like demiurge?

A. I have a Masters in Spiritual Traditions and Ethics. I seldom get to use those words.

Q. Are you some sort of religious freak?

A. Why, yes, I am. But not in the way most people think of it. I’m a JuBuEpiscoPagaTarian Universalist who reads the Qur’an for edification and studied for the Episcopal priesthood.

Q. You wanted to be a priest?

A. Until I realized I couldn’t bear to spend another minute with my seminary  classmates, yes.  As a layperson, the Episcopal church had a hard time shutting me up. I liked that. Now I preach in the UU tradition sometimes.

Q. Do you talk about religion in your books?

A. Sometimes. In the second book in my Blind series, I introduce a  woman priest as a character. Write what you know again. I know a lot of women priests. Although I like nuns better.

Q. Nuns?

A. I fell in love with my partner because she wore nun shoes. I love nuns. When I found out she’d done time in a convent, I was hooked.

Q. So there are lesbian nuns?

A. Well, duh.

Q. One of your main characters is blind. Why?

A. As a person with a disability, I’m fascinated by the ways people with disabilities find ways to live normal lives, whatever that means. Since my disability is hidden, I figured a character with a visible disability would be easier to write.

Q. How long have you and your partner been together?

A. Depends who’s doing the math but somewhere around 20 years.

Q. Math?

A. Yeah. I have a hard time remembering how old I am so I get the math wrong. I have to figure out how old the oldest kid is, and then remember which year she was born, and work from there. I get it wrong a lot.

Q. Kids?

A. And grandkids. I’m lesbian, not unplumbed. I’ve got three daughters, and almost four grandkids.

Q. Back to the math…

A. I can’t figure out how my cell phone works either. It has a big red button that says “END CALL” but when I answer the phone my brain says “PUSH ME.” I hang up on people a lot.

Q. About your brain…

A. Traumatic brain injury, October 9, 2002, during simple throat surgery. The brain injury would have been okay except for the three concussions in the years before. Cumulative effect. My brain finally gave out.

Q.  Huh?

A. I died. I did not see Jesus. I did not go toward the light. I caught a jump start from a passing surgeon, and an ancient Asian nurse scared me back to life by yelling, “BREATHE”  every time some alarm went off. For awhile, I was out of alignment, pulled to the left, had a weird kind of aphasia, used a cane to stay upright, and set things (usually things full of liquids) down on invisible tables. I also closed my eyes while driving.  I’m mostly okay now, though. Although, I did get fibromyalgia as a lovely parting gift.

Q. I’m glad your brain is better. What changed?

A. Knitting and spinning. I did a lot of both since I couldn’t work. I made lots of yarn and lots of scarves, hats, and sweaters. Later I learned that using both hands at the same time knits new neural pathways. Since I needed some new ones, I just made them myself.

Q. Thanks. We’ll do this again sometime.

A. Please send someone else to do the interview. Your questions suck.

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Thursday's Three Theological Things

Funny how hard times turn the mind to God. I’ve found myself praying that the slump in my business dissipate before I’m broke. But I’m also using the time off to work on other things. Like writing. Like renewing my teaching certificate and signing up to substitute. Like think about what I really want and need. All very spiritual pursuits.

I’m taking a class called Writing the Spirit that conveniently falls during Lent. A couple weeks ago, we were given the task of writing an “I am from….” poem about our spiritual lives. It was an interesting exercise, everyone in the group wrote amazing stuff, and I’ve decided to let you read mine.  If you want to do your own, all you have to do is write “I am from…” and get that pen moving.

So, for my first theological thing, here’s my poem.

I am from stained glass and uniforms,
Jewish boys carrying crosses they don’t believe in
While Christian girls with covered heads are excluded from the altar

I am from concentration camps and schism over buttons
The 1928 prayer book and the Coverdale psalms
Too many years in seminary and not enough in prayer
Messiahs and Prophets (blessed be their names).

I am from gentle lovers and fierce daughters, wise men and wiser women,
From evolution, revolution, metanoia, and koinonia
From words and the Word, bread and wine,
Matzo balls and latkes, Sabbath-keeping and rule-breaking

I from choirs of children in four-part harmony
From wanting what I could not have
Until women defied the church and paved the way
And I found I did not want it anymore.

I am from midrash and surahs, gitas and rubrics, Genesis and Luke,
From women’s circles and men’s rules
From broken vows and understanding abbots,
From priests and nuns, rabbis and teachers,
From buried and broken Alleluias.

I am from the holy, whatever be its form.
I am.

Second Theological Thing
Shifting gears a bit, but still staying holed up in the library of the UU church, this week’s assignment involved Carolyn Myss’ Sacred Contracts and her archetype cards. We each chose three cards from the deck, after setting an intention for discovering more about our spiritual path. The three cards represent past, present, and future, or where I come from, where I am, and where I’m going.  I drew the Hermit, the Fool, and God.  Interesting choices for me.

The Hermit, or Mystic, at its best, withdraws from society to focus on the inner life. While I don’t necessarily withdraw, I do like my solitude. Although I can’t say I always use it to advantage. Sometimes I do things that nurture my inner life. Other times I just play World of Warcraft. Which some might argue IS an inner life. Or at least an imaginary life. At its worst, the Hermit withdraws because of fear, intolerance, or to avoid the problems of the world.  I will admit to some fear, and some avoidance, but I’m in therapy again for the gazillionth time to work on that.
Therapy, for me, is a very Hermit-like thing to do. The self-reflection, with someone to call me on a tendency to navel-gaze, has been an invaluable tool in my life. And right now I’m not doing therapy because there is anything particularly wrong but because I want to indulge a desire to grow. Yes, part of that is looking at old stuff, but I’ve done most of the hard, painful part of that already. Now I’m spending an hour every other week in a very disciplined focus on my inner life. And I’ve found one of those once in a lifetime therapists who is truly gifted and is able to serve as both guide and friend. All in all, I’m enjoying my Hermit-age.

My present card is the Fool. In tarot, the Fool is the Zen ‘beginner mind’, the child just starting out on the journey, a reminder that we are always beginning again. In Myss’ archetypes, it’s the ability to communicate profound truth through humor and represents what we’d like to say if we just had the courage.  The downside, or shadow, is a tendency to use humor in cruel ways. I hope I don’t have that. But I am one who uses humor a great deal in my writing, preaching, and life and there are few sacred cows. I pretty much say what I mean, and often do it with humor.

My future card is God. I asked the question about whether this card was gendered, or if it included goddess. It is gendered, and is the male god. In tarot, it would probably be the Heirophant or the Emperor. I’m not done thinking about it so I can’t tell which for sure. Maybe it’s elements of both. This card is the ultimate in male dominance. If used wisely, it is compassion and benevolence (the Emperor). Used poorly, it is the dictator or despot. I’m guessing that Jenny might see moments of the dictator in me but I like to think that I am headed for compassion.

Anyway, my assignment is to think and journal about these things. I guess I just did part of it publically. But I wanted to share about these archetypes, an idea that fascinates me and can be very helpful in looking at life.

Third Theological Thing

Gwyneth

Gwyneth

As we all know, God is Dog spelled backwards and I’ve found this dog to be unconditional love on paws so it must be true. We took a walk along Johnson Creek today, in the freezing cold, and Gwynnie found this pool. Now, given the temps we’ve had here the last few days, I’m guessing that water was pretty dang cold. I would have posted the whole sequence, as she first went in with front paws only, then her back toes, then up to her ankles (do dogs have ankles? Does God?)  But over the course of about 30 seconds, most of them captured on my new camera, she went in up to her belly. I was sure she was going to start swimming but she drew the line somewhere. Anyway, I’m thinking she was feeling the need for a baptism in icy water.

Here’s the strange part. We live on a freaking CREEK. About 30 feet off the end of our house is Beaver Creek. Has this dog EVER gone in the creek? No. She has her own little latrine spot near the creek (can’t train her to be environmentally friendly), and there is a spring that feeds the creek which is also her personal drinking fountain, but she has NEVER gone in the creek. First time she’s near a body of water that is not on our property, she’s right in there. Can’t be a desire to swim. She can do that right here. Nope, I’m pretty sure she was baptising herself.

And don’t start with me about dogs having souls or not. There was a whole theological debate on whether women had souls back in time and the debate was not souls or no souls. Nope, it was do women HAVE souls or ARE women souls. I vote that women are pure soul and as such have no need of HAVING souls. And I think the same is true of my dog. On the other hand, being the roommate of a purely evil cat, I’m pretty sure Sophie doesn’t have one, nor is she one. Some of you will, of course, argue with that. You know who you are. Feel free to comment. Just be civil. Now, talk amongst yourselves.

Photo of the Day or, She's Learned a New Trick

Good Dog Gwyneth

Good Dog Gwyneth

You probably think I’m talking about the illustrious Gwyneth and that photo does make it appear that she’s learned a new trick. Namely, “COME.” But, alas, she is no better at that one than she is at most others. Well, there is “BEG,” but she does that whether we ask her to or not.

Nope, the “she” in the title is me. I’ve got a new camera, I’m learning how to use it, and I just figured out how to put a photo on my blog. So, today’s photo of the day is over there to the left. Cool, huh?

25 Random Things

  1. I have no idea how to put a Facebook link in a blog post and need Lisa to help me.
  2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are the only dog allowed in the British Parliament by order of Cavalier King Charles who is dead but the rule lives on.
  3. My daughter is in Peru right now. So is her husband. He is Peruvian which sort of explains why they are in Peru.
  4. I am two degrees of separation from several presidents and three degrees away from Barack Obama. I am one degree of separation away from Sally Struthers which puts me two away from a whole bunch of movie stars. However, I am not impressed with myself. I just need to put 25 random things down and those came to mind.
  5. My uncle had mafia connections. As in the Rat Pack. Really. It’s true. Just ask my sisters. OH! That puts me two degrees away from Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.!
  6. I write mysteries. The current one has the mafia in it. Also theology, sex, politics, lesbians, and guns. Did I mention sex?
  7. St. Paul was a feminist in his day. I know. Hard to believe. But true. Live with it.
  8. So was Mohammed. Really. And virgins may actually be olives…..
  9. Paraguay is a country in South America. I almost forgot that.
  10. Maize.  In elementary school social studies, the answer was almost always maize.
  11. That was before 42 was the answer.
  12. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was rejected several dozen times over close to a decade.
  13. Then it won the Newberry Medal.
  14. It snowed in Portland today. I drove anyway because it was just pretend snow. The kind that happens when it’s 40 degrees out.
  15. I used to be a real live hippy. I’m still real and still alive. But I had kids and sort of grew up. Sort of.
  16. My daughter calls me her pothead mom because I smoked pot recently to see if it helped with the pain. It did. But I forgot how to smoke and choked. Not a nice experience.
  17. If I would agree to live in the car with her,  Good Dog Gwynth thinks that would be a very good thing. She loves the car almost as much as she loves Jenny.
  18. I have no idea how to spell my dog’s name. The Good Dog part I’m okay with. It’s the last part that baffles me. One n? Two n? Another y?
  19. When I was a kid I learned the vowels were a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes w and y. They don’t teach w and y as vowels anymore. But I’m sure that the w and/or y in my dog’s name are vowels. At least I’m pretty sure. I may be missing something. No, they have to be. Because all the other things are definitely consonants. And there has to be a vowel. That’s another rule that lives on. Unless you are from another dimension or something. And actually, the dog’s name has two syllables which means there needs to be ANOTHER vowel and I don’t think wy counts as two vowels. Where does the other one go? This is going to keep me awake tonight.
  20. Cows can be tipped over and I’d like to try it. Despite what people think, I’m not particularly fond of cows. Just because I gave one talk on cow piety…….Strange the things you get standing ovations for…..
  21. This is the 21st random thing tonight. Four more to go.
  22. I learned a lot of new stuff today. I believe you should learn at least one new thing every day. I’m set until mid-May, 2010.
  23. My favorite podcast is Cast On. It’s about knitting. It’s funny. It’s in Wales. It’s by a lesbian. These are a few of my favorite things. (Although I still love all the straight women in my life, too!)
  24. It really is time to go to bed because a friend is coming over at 10 am to work on a service we’re doing this Sunday. It’s on Sabbath and about Sabbath. I’m preaching. Look out! Heresy alert!
  25. I just learned how to knit a moebius strip. Now I’ll have to learn how to quit knitting it. But there is no real stopping point so it may go on for awhile.

Why I Hate Lisa, or Has it Been 500 Years Already?

First, let me confess that I don’t really hate Lisa, but I do want to call her out on her bizarre behavior on New Year’s Day.  More on that later.

When we decided to build a house on Beaver Creek, we knew there was a possibility of flooding. Being smart women, we went first to the county and were told that the property we were looking at, although a full third of it IS Beaver Creek, was not in the 500 year flood plain. We were talking to the chief-guru-in-charge-of-such-matters, and he actually put his signature on some papers, so we thought we were okay. However, just wanting to make sure, I went back a few days later and talked to a sub-guru who said the same thing. Then, because I am, in reality, chopped liver in the not-believable section of life’s grocery store, our contractor went and asked. He got the same answer. So we built.

The county did request an extra 16 inches of foundation, on top of the already generous amount the contractor had planned for, so we ended up with almost five feet of foundation at the corner nearest the creek. We built, we moved in April, and enjoyed a long hot summer of leafy coolness at the side of the creek. Then it snowed.

Oregon gets snow. A few inches a year, lasting for a day or two, enough to foul the roads, close the schools, and give everyone a few days of midwinter rest. But this time it SNOWED. We had over 2.5′ of the stuff, topped with a couple inches of ice. Enough to drive me round the bend, especially since Jenny was home and relaxing but I’ve yet to find a publisher who will buy the excuse “My hall was too icy to get to work.” I worked all through the snow and ice, although it seems that the weather has prevented the publishers from actually paying me, but that’s another rant, er, story.

We were snowed in for a week, and the snow hung around for two weeks. Then, on my 57th birthday, it started to rain. Rain, of course, means the snow melts. The creek rose, came up into the yard, then receded. We heaved a sigh of relief and went out on New Year’s Eve to celebrate with a rousing game of SongBurst with the old gang. New Year’s Day we woke to a monsoon. Almost four inches of rain fell on Beavercreek, OR that day, breaking records and causing me to mutter about every single global-warming-denying Republican who ever lived.

And the creek rose. And rose. Instead of a quiet meandering float, it became a raging river, complete with rapids. The rapids were the access road to our place.  And WERE is the operative word. We no longer have an access road.

Now, I have a great deal of trust in the weatherman on channel 8. Don’t ask me why. My mother had faith in channel 8 and so do I. So I was listening to channel 8 and the guy was saying the rain would stop, the water would peak, and things would return to normal. He’d been spot on about everything to do with the “Arctic Blast” which gave us snow in the first place so I was sure he was right this time.

So. Jenny would go outside and measure the water depth and I would do the math. I figured that the water would not make it into the house so I was all “Hakuna Matata” and just wanting to chill. But Jenny was becoming more and more agitated and wanting to evacuate. Finally, at midnight, she decides she needs to talk to Lisa.

Lisa is maybe 27. Okay, maybe 42. Either way, she is young enough to be Jenny’s kid and behaves very much like me, which is to say mostly badly. But Jenny thinks Lisa is a wise woman. Besides, Lisa is one of the few people we know who is still up at midnight. The other is Mar, but we knew Mar was out of town.  So we call Lisa and Jenny tells her that the house is surrounded by water (which is true) and the creek has become a raging river (also true) and that the water is rising faster and faster (not the way I remember it, but then I’m chopped liver, remember?) And Lisa, hearing the freak in Jenny’s voice says something to the effect of “Well, if you’re surrounded by water, you should leave.” Great. I hate Lisa.

Jenny IMMEDIATELY packs a bag and puts on her coat. I’m dawdling because I REALLY don’t want to go and REALLY don’t believe the water is coming into the house. But I finally grab a few things and agree to go to a motel. We wade through about eight inches of water to the car, coax the dog to join us, and head out. Fortunately, someone had the foresight to build a back way out of our place. We have to drive through another raging stream, only to find the main back way is blocked by high water. We turn around, and take the other back way which is basically one long pothole full of water, with a washout at the end. Jenny just charges the Sienna across the washout and we are on Beavercreek Road. Which is blocked by, duh,  high water.  It takes us the next hour, most of it going in the wrong direction, to find a road that will get us out of Beavercreek and headed toward Oregon City. It is now 1 am and we are heading for a motel. We are also running out of gas and can’t find a gas station that is open. I want to go home.
I call Lisa again, just because when I’m annoyed I need to annoy others, and Lisa admits that she wouldn’t have left in the first place. I hate Lisa.

Suddenly I realize that we have a dog with us. And we have no idea where we will find a motel that will take dogs at 1 am on New Year’s Day in the rain. We need a plan. So the plan is this: We stop at Shari’s because it is open all night and will let us sit there forever as long as we eat something. After a couple hours of listening to the tunes on the video poker machines, someone says it’s snowing. THE RAIN HAS STOPPED! The snow is falling in big wet globs, putting a couple of inches of wet snow all over everything. But we still don’t have gas and the last thing we want is to drive around looking for clear roads back to Beavercreek and run out of gas. This is the country, man, and there are no people out except us, my cell phone battery is mostly dead, Jenny’s cell phone is mostly at home, and I’m getting really annoyed.

We head down toward the freeway and find this: no open gas stations. Then we call AAA and they tell us there is a 24 hr gas station right next to us. And there is. But we’ve already been there and they won’t take credit cards, we have no cash, and pay day isn’t until the next morning. I’m sure you’ve been there. Finally, after a short eternity, we find an open gas station and get gas. I propose three possible solutions: motel, go to the church and sleep on the couches in the basement, or go home. I really want to go home, and I really hate Lisa for getting me into this, but I feel that, as the rational one in this situation, I have to offer several options.

Now that we have gas, Jenny is suddenly feeling really butch. She decides that we will go home. So we do. And the water is gone, we are now just a peninsula, no longer an island entire of itself, although we would have been just fine as an island if Lisa hadn’t told Jenny to evacuate. I hate Lisa. Do you understand why?

And, while I fully expected that at some point we would face hell AND high water, I didn’t expect it during our first year, our honeymoon year, in our new house. So until Wednesday when I see her again, I’m going to hate Lisa for making me leave my warm house, wade through ice water up to my shins, and drive around all night in Oregon City. When she would have stayed home. After all, that’s what good friends are for, right?

Alien News – Election Edition

Hey, finding out that Bill and Hillary really DID adopt an alien child wouldn’t be any weirder than the stuff that’s going on in this election. I’m not going to provide links because my hand hurts but I’ll refer you to the following:

Daily Kos

Huffington Post

New York Times

So, here’s the rundown:

Sarah Palin went off target this weekend and brought up the clothes. Which, although she wears them, are not hers. (Is she a nun? Are they “clothes that I use”? (I know a lot of nuns and some of them talk that way: “It’s not my car. It’s the car that I use.” )) In fact, most of them (the clothes, not the nuns) are still in her jet. Hmm. She did say “my jet”. Maybe they struck a deal. She gives the clothes back and keeps the jet? The Republicans are now pissed at her for continuing the circus and are calling her a “rogue” and a “diva”.

Of course, McCain says the RNC bought the clothes, not the campaign. Now the RNC is saying that they only bought the clothes because the campaign asked them to do so.

In the NYT this weekend, it turns out there is one endorsement McCain doesn’t want brought up. See, it seems that a terrorist group, a certain Al Queda, has endorsed McCain. Seems the Bushies have been such a good recruiting tool, they want to continue these stupid wars as long as possible.

Speaking of wars, the vast majority of US soldiers are voting…wait for it…DEMOCRATIC. HUH!?!?!? (Last I heard it was about 80 percent)

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has been convicted on all 7 counts of canoodling with the Big Oil and LYING about it. Sarah Palin has not asked for his resignation, saying she trusts that he will do the right thing for Alaska.  So much for the reformer who took on her own party over corruption.

Today someone in the Palin mob shouted “He’s a n****R” about Obama. Palin, naturally, only fumbled her lines and said nothing. And two white supremacists were arrested by the ATF in a plot to kill 102 African-American students AND Barack Obama. Gee, I can’t help but wonder how Bridget McCain feels about all of this. Or did her parents cancel her Internet and cable TV?  Bridget, in case you don’t know, is the McCain’s 17 year old adopted daughter. She’s Bangladeshi, not African, but she’s definitely black.

In a call center, 40 employees walked out, sacrificing their pay rather than read a hate-filled screed the McCain campaign wanted read to voters in swing states. Having done time in a call center myself, I know that those folks NEEDED the money they lost by exercising their consciences. And, because call centers tend to be sweat shops, it’s quite possible they could lose their jobs.

Speaking of low-wage workers, it’s so bad out there, the McCain campaign is hiring people to call voters. And some of those people are Obama supporters who just need a job. Now, what is this whole Acorn thing about? Oh, yeah, hiring people to register voters. See, it’s bad to hire people to register voters, but it’s okay to hire people to slime other people.  Of course, the McCain people are threatening to sue the folks who told on them.

And, while we’re on the topic, McCain can’t get volunteers to do his campaign work.  I was at the Obama joint in Oregon City the other day and it was jumping! Dozens of volunteers, packed into a small storefront. Great energy. And they weren’t getting paid.

Also, Acorn flagged all the bad registrations and turned them in AS THEY ARE REQUIRED TO DO BY LAW. Oh, and earlier this year, McCain was honoring Acorn for the good work they do.

Meanwhile, Republicans are up to their old tricks. (Can they learn new ones?) Voting machines that register for McCain when you push Obama. Or allow you to vote a straight Democratic ticket with one push but don’t register the vote for President.  Mailers telling voters in Democratic areas that the general assembly (I forget what state….but it’s a swinger) has decided to hold voting on November 5th. Swing states being sued because “we never thought the election would be so big” so they didn’t get enough ballots. (Funny, I did. And I’m just a soccer mom/football grandma/intellectual elite/small business owner/lesbian Christian so what do I know.)

Speaking of me, I figured out that under McCain’s finance plan, I’d get zip. Zero. Nada. And could lose my health insurance. Under Obama’s, I get some tax breaks. If I ever make $250,000 net I’ll make sure to whine.

And speaking of Christians, be sure to Google Jim Wallis, an evangelical minister, or look him up at Huffington Post, and read his guidelines for Christian voters.

I know there is much more but the dog is whining because Jenny just drove in and I have to let her out.

She's at it again….

Gwyneth, the-official-best-dog-in-the-world, is up to her old tricks. Once again, I am being awakened at ungodly hours so she can protest the fact that Jenny actually has to go away to work. What the dog wants is for me to get up, let her out on the porch, and hang with her while she stares intently at the driveway. What I want to do is sleep. So I am learning to pat her head and say “Go back to bed.” Not that it works for her. But I go back to sleep and she can do whatever she wants.

Hopefully, this will discourage her in her pursuit of holding Jenny hostage.

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