Grits and Purls

Spinning yarns about the grit of life

41BsLQT-eTLGenre: Christian, Children’s Literature

Disclosure: I am a friend of the author, and this book was sent to me free of charge to review.

There are good books, and there are books full of goodness. Good Boy, Achilles has the unusual distinction of being both. The premise of the book is that the special relationship between humans and domestic canines is a divine Gift to help us navigate the joys, troubles and distresses of life.  Each dog is specially made, to love, protect and guide its special human. The dogs understand their role, even when the humans do not.

The plot centers around a young boy, Jeremy, who lives on a family farm with his parents. The farm dog, Ginger, has a litter of puppies, one of whom forms a special bond with Jeremy. Conflict arises when Jeremy is not able to keep “his” puppy because his father is worried about the added expense veterinary care and feeding such a large dog would add to the family budget.

The author does an excellent job of showing and not telling the inner emotions of Jeremy—a visual painting of a shuffled walk, a slammed door, a tearful run through a corn field. This reader was reminded of her own childhood—of times when she was wondering at dinner when she was going to get into trouble for something that had happened earlier in the day. The writing about Jeremy effectively lets the reader really get to know and understand Jeremy.

The dogs are precious and lovable, and one can’t help but want to give Achilles a hero’s welcome by the end of the book. I would have liked to have seen more of the same kind of writing that we saw for Jeremy’s character used for the dog’s growth and learning of his role as well.

It is a lovely book. Children of reading age who have a special pet will enjoy it, but it’s a good book for parents to read to a younger child as well. And, I know many adults who will enjoy this book also.

iStock_000012148387XSmallJust the other night my husband and I were talking about the people who inspired us to become people of initiative. We are both natural competitors. Neither of us can stand not to do a job, even the smallest one, well. Initiative is one of our natural traits: We see something falling through the cracks—we do something about it, even if it is not our responsibility. These things are inherent within us, but along the way, people in our lives have nurtured this trait.

One of those key people in my life was my sister.

My sister NAGGED me into excelling. Continue reading

12733505_10153260834997541_4899769578013394154_nThere are places in my life where I look for motivation. Church, for instance. I expect church to be motivating and inspiring. I expect to be challenged to be better than I am.

I also expect my family to motivate me: The dog greets me at the door, prancing on her toes, saying “Yeah, yeah, time for a walk. Time for a walk. You know you’re the greatest person in the world. Yes you do. Yes you do.”

My daughter motivates me to get off the couch or leave the computer keyboard behind:  “Come downstairs and play with me Mom. You know you’ll have fun.”

Or even my sister, “Come on, do it. You’ll never know if you don’t try. When is that book going to be published, by the way?”

I even expect motivation at work. Colleagues proofread and edit pieces I write, “Geez Michele, could that sentence be any longer?”  “Do you think you could find a new word for ‘robust’?” “That’s good, but could you make it 50 characters shorter?”

And I have a few college friends who write blogs and articles that inspire and motivate me.

I do not, however, look to paper towels for the one thing that will get my day moving in the right direction.

That is why I was so surprised on Monday morning, when after stepping out sock-footed, before the coffee had finished brewing, onto the cold, cold, cold garage floor at 5:30am to put food into the dog’s bowl (yes the same dog who is continually motivating me to be a great person)— I found, on the paper towel roll that I had purchased for the bargain basement price of $0.97, motivational quotes.

“Wake up and be AMAZING!”  The roll yelled at me in a multicolored, teenage-girl font. Seriously?!

I stood there in my oversized comfy pajamas, with my husband’s T-shirt poking out from underneath the top, and looked at the inspirational quotes on the roll. “Good Morning Beautiful” (complete with eighth notes), “Here’s to a Great Start” (written in the shape of an apple), and “Time to Shine” (complete with little yellow and red rays of sun).

My sarcastic mind immediately went to work as I ripped a towel from the roll to serve as my workspace for making the day’s lunches.

How about “Wake up and be Medusa?”  or “Time to pull the blanket over your head and sleep in”  or “Let’s get rolling” in the shape of a chocolate iced donut?

Perhaps the people who designed these motivational paper towels had the best of intentions, thinking that if people saw positive messages on their paper towels they would have a better day.

Now, if the paper towels had really good knock-knock jokes, or one-liners from Robin Williams, or Yogi Berra quotes, they would be truly awesome. That would indeed get my day off to a great start.

© 2016 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. —Maya Angelou

This week my day job involves interacting with my colleagues from 19 branch offices from around the globe. These people, some scientists, some marketers, some journalists, some younger, some older, have flown to Madison from PacAsia, South America and Europe. We meet in Madison, WI, in January to talk about aligning our efforts as we work to support the work of scientists around the globe.

When we sit down around a common table, we treat each other differently.

When we sit down around a common table, we treat each other differently.

We could have these meetings using video conferencing technology, and indeed throughout the year, we often do have such meetings. Emails and instant messages fly across cyberspace from continent to continent on a daily basis, but the yearly meeting where we all get together and interact face-to-face lends a whole new dimension to the work we do and how we do it.

Meeting one another and spending the afternoon at a painting bar sharing a meal, a blank canvas and acrylic paints brings out the humanity in all of us. We learn that our colleagues in France and in Switzerland also have young daughters who dress up like Elsa and sing “Let It Go” over and over and over and over and …well, you get the picture. Continue reading

Our silly tomten.

Our silly tomten.

We have four gifts under our tree right now. All of them were purchased by our daughter for Grandpa, Grandma, Mom (me) and Dad. That’s it, four gifts. And the dog ate mine.

Okay, perhaps that is just a bit of an exaggeration. The dog opened mine. My daughter and her sitter arrived home first, and they were able to rewrap the present.

It’s been that kind of Christmas season. Continue reading

“I’ll be 9, which is almost 10, which is practically a teenager…so don’t call me little…”

That is how some of the conversation at our house has gone recently.

“Whoa! Slow down there partner, you’re still 8 right now, and you will never have the chance to be 8 years old again, so make sure you REALLY enjoy these next couple of days. And when you turn 9, don’t rush into teenager. Enjoy being 9; it only comes around once in a lifetime.”

As I rapidly approach my collision course with the half-century mark, I truly understand the quote “Youth is wasted on the young.” Continue reading

IMGP6083My daughter’s birthday month got off to an early start when she received her birthday card from the Green Bay Packers on October 31. Finally, an organization that appreciates November with the same enthusiasm as my daughter!

Typically we don’t get excited about November. It’s that brown month between the captivating color change and crisp fall air of October and the lights, tinsel and snow of December. The harvest is in. The fields are barren; the birds have migrated, and the snow has not yet covered the earth in its white winter blanket.

November is the month of naked trees, early nightfall, and frosty mornings. It’s monochromatic. In the United States, the even the major holiday in November, Thanksgiving, is primarily black, white and brown—harkening to pilgrims, turkeys, and a harvest brought in.

At first glance it is a plain month, a quiet month, a slow month.

And in our society we are not comfortable with plain, quiet and slow. Continue reading