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He Who Dances on Table

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For most of us across the country, it’s been a long, long winter.  And COLD.  In addition to us humans being locked up inside, our dogs also suffered the same fate.  So in comes the guilt – why didn’t I make more time to walk my dogs?

We finally have welcomed spring here in Nashville and thankfully my dogs do NOT hold a grudge.  This photo was taken a week ago while walking my crazy golden retriever Rudolph, and my beloved husky Luna.  I stopped to try and add some exercises into my walk (no one could see me so I wouldn’t be too embarrassed) and Rudolph literally jumped up on the nearby picnic table he was so excited.  The sheer pleasure of being on a walk, being able to jump up and down without being scolded too much (well I did encourage him to get down) was awesome to watch.  It’s one of the best qualities in dogs and small children – they are so sincere.  They wear their emotions on their face, in their bark, growl or kisses.  

Why aren’t humans more like dogs when it comes to their emotions?  Seems we are taught to hold things in at a young age, which definitely has its good qualities [insert memory of heinous toddler temper tantrums here].  And growling at work or dinner parities would probably be socially unacceptable.  BUT I do wish sometimes we could all release our feelings and not hold things in so much. Even if it means every once in a while we need to dance on a table…

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Looks like dog love is hereditary…

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I’d like to say this photo was a candid shot of unconditional love experienced by my 8 year old son and our 4 year old Golden.  Well….that’s half true!  Although during this snuggle fest on our bed, my son whispered to me “take my picture” so it wasn’t exactly candid!  But both my sons adore our dogs and that is such a blessing.  But what did I expect?

I was born into a family of dog lovers.  My dad always joked that he wanted to come back as the “Murphy dog” because they were all so spoiled and loved.  And the ironic thing is that my family seemed unable to express their love for each other, but never shied away from kissing and hugging our dogs and saying “I love you!” as long as the recipient of the declaration was canine.    

Last year was a hard year for my family.  After losing my mom’s rescue dog, two weeks later we lost my dad.  But the two events couldn’t be more different.  My dad had suffered for years in an assisted living facility dedicated to patients with severe dementia.  He had multiple strokes and was in a wheelchair, unable to eat solid food for a long time.  My mother visited him and sat with him for years; sometimes you felt there was some recognition, other times you knew there wasn’t.  Quite an emotional roller coaster for all of us.  My children were fearful at times walking into the home as dementia patients would come try to hold their hand and talk to them.  But they were troopers and we all learned that just being there could mean a lot to other patients who never saw friends or family.  Since my parents retired to South Florida, my mom and friends were close by, but us kids (and grandkids) didn’t get to visit as often as we’d like.  

In the end his passing was a blessing.  People always say that and you think it sounds awful, right?  But it was true.  After having to put two of my beloved dogs to sleep in the past, I know how excruciating that process is.  And I can’t tell you how many times my family talked about the fact that we treat our animals with more respect than our human family members.  

This photo is one we chose for my dad’s memorial.  

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We had to have a picture with his favorite child – Jessie the pug :)  After raising three independent girls, Jessie was truly the boy he never had!  

And as for my mom, well she’s doing remarkably well.  She’s 84 (she doesn’t use “the internet” so won’t be upset with me for mentioning her age!) and has a new baby that she’s just nuts about.  Casper, a rescue Maltese.  

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So the cycle continues – all of us Murphys and now Coiles are true crazy animal people.  It’s in our genes.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way :)  

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Guess Tennyson was right…

I’ve always been an optimist, and tried to see the reason behind things happening.  But I’ve also always been someone who feared the worst case scenario, which has definitely increased since having kids.  So last week I had to reconcile one of my worst fears and find a reason for it.  Easier said than done.

This past week my husband and I had to watch my kids and my mother go through something awful – my mom’s new rescue dog – which we named Carson after Downton Abby because of his dapper black and white fur – was killed in front of us.  It was a freak car accident – somehow he freaked out at the vet, wiggled out of his collar, flew through the front door as another client was coming in, and took off.  We all chased him for nearly 20 minutes with the vet techs, but he was out on a joy run.  The only saving grace was it happened instantly, no blood, no gore.  Which of course is a pretty low standard for “the good news is…” (Sorry have to keep the sense of humor or else I’d be crying again!)

I felt like we were in a movie, that surely we would catch him.  But that didn’t happen.  It’s made me think of other tragedies friends and family have endured.  When children get sick you think they’ll get better.  When friends are diagnosed with serious illnesses, you think they can be cured.  But that’s not always what happens.  Handling the reality of life can be overwhelming to us adults, so how do a 7 and 9 year old handle tragedy?

Unfortunately my kids have been around death before – death of their dear grandfather, death of my mother’s pug Jessie, and the death of a close friend of ours who had kids their same age.  But I realized it was the trauma of seeing it happen and the sudden shock of it that made it so hard to understand.

I also know that I’ve passed along the Murphy “dog crazy” gene to my kids.  And as hard as everything has been, I have to say I am happy to see my kids developing a true love of animals.  It’s heart wrenching to lose them, but it’s so rewarding and wonderful to love animals.  Would we ever choose to be different?  Although I have to admit momentarily as we were running down the side of a busy highway I did think we were all crazy, and I should get my kids back to the car (they weren’t near the traffic we were being safe).  But I couldn’t turn around.  We had to keep going, keep trying to save the dog.  Why?

I think it’s unconditional love that is so rare in life.  And even though my 7 year old said “Nana needs a cat” which was heartbreakingly funny and such a simple solution for a child, I knew that wouldn’t fly.

Because we are dog people.  And proud to love our pets because they sure deserve it.  So the old cliche is still true, and it’s the only reason I can find in this hour – I’m glad we’ve loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

And I know little Carson is safe and running free. Image

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2013 in Dogs, Loss of pet, Uncategorized

 

A personal reminder of wisdom and unconditional love

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As I’ve written about before, ever since I lost my beloved Cato I have seen owls during my walks in Percy Warner Park.  At first, people thought I was a little crazy (guilty!), that most owls don’t come out during the afternoon, that I must be imagining things, etc.  But then I started taking photos, which is hard while walking two 75-pound dogs!  For me, the owl represents wisdom and unconditional love and it almost always pops up when I need to see it. Weird, huh?

Yesterday I was allowing myself to get worked up over some discriminatory remarks made by some close to our family.  I have a real hard time letting things go sometimes!  So as I was walking the dogs, I was getting more and more upset, wondering how people can be so judgmental and think that denying other people basic human rights is somehow okay?  Just as I was using my lawyer mind to craft my best arguments for a hypothetical discussion that will never take place, I looked up and there was my owl.

Yep, I needed that.  Because, to me, the owl represents wisdom and unconditional love.  It reminds me of Cato, and of other lost loved ones.  It reminds me how our pets love us unconditionally no matter who we are, what we believe in, or who we love, so long as we treat them with respect and love.  So instead of allowing the views of others to upset me, a wiser approach is to focus on myself and how I treat others.  Easier said than done, part of my “letting go” problem I guess :)

So I will continue to take deep breaths and remember that only I control my emotions.  And if others want to eat chicken fried in peanut oil and sit back (or drive thru) and condemn others, well I guess it’s their right.

But I’ll be out walking, appreciating and celebrating the diversity of nature, both human and animal.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Learning to let go…just a little

IMG_1299I was born with a moderate fear of heights.  Something I realized when I was on top of the faux Eiffel Tower at Kings Dominion Park in Richmond, Virginia over 30 years ago.  Walking to the edge had me very shaky and worried somehow I would hurl myself off of the Tower and fall.  Which of course was impossible given the amount of fencing all around the top.  This same fear has only cropped up a few times in life, most recently on ski lifts.  So last month I got to experience a double whammy – taking my 7 and 9-year-old boys to ski for the first time in Crested Butte, Colorado, and riding with and WITHOUT them on ski lifts.  One of the lifts had (gasp) no bar. Damn you Teocali lift!

The kids did so well skiing that after 2 days we were all going on lifts together.  We were there with another family so there were several of us skiing together, kids and adults at different times.  I became so comfortable and was having so much fun that during one run I realized I was behind with my friends and looked up and saw that my boys were getting on the lift with their buddies too.  Without an adult!  Panic struck my heart as I got on the chair behind them and watched nervously as the chair went up and up and up.  About halfway up I realized they were doing great just hanging with their buddies.  Enjoying the beautiful fresh Colorado air and chatting (probably about Minecraft).  So I took a deep breath and realized that: (1) I needed to capture this moment, but more importantly (2) I needed to learn to let go.  Just a little…

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Next lift, of course, I was right there with them but was forced to admit that it was probably a good thing for their self-esteem and confidence to do that lift all by themselves.  And good for me to maybe give them some space when they’re ready.

Guess we all learned some new tricks over spring break this year :)

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Next Big Thing – An Author Blog Hop

I am honored, and a bit terrified, to have been tagged in an author blog hop. Especially an international one :) Here’s how The Next Big Thing Blog Hop works: An author answers ten questions and then tags five authors (if you are able to find them – I am still working on that!) to answer the same questions on their blog the following week.

The funny thing about being tagged is how many coincidences led me to this place in my life. I was tagged by Elizabeth Carden, a historical fiction author and freelance writer, who I initially met years ago as the wife of a coworker (we were both lobbying the Tennessee General Assembly). We had both of our children within days of each other, and I chose a family name – Flanagan – for my son’s middle name which Elizabeth had chosen for her daughter’s first name (although the spelling is different). We subsequently learned we share the same hairdresser, both had children with peanut allergies, both were working on our first novels, and strangest of all, we are very likely related. Yes, over coffee we talked about our Irish heritage and found out we both hail from Considines in Ireland. Oh and did I mention that Elizabeth was runner up in the Historical Novel Society’s 2012 Short Story Award in London? See why I’m terrified?!

So here are the 10 questions:

What is the working title of your next book? Since I just completed my first novel and am starting my sequel, I’ll talk about my first real manuscript. The title that has stuck the longest so far is Warning Signs. I actually had chosen Boys Will Be Boys, but that was thoroughly assailed on some writer blogs because it gave rise to a coming of age book, not a thriller involving an animal cruelty investigator. Always good to check with others! The meaning behind the title is that many perpetrators start with animal cruelty and move onto human violence, usually against domestic partners or family members.

Where did the idea come from for the book? I lost my beloved Cato, a 14-year old Siberian husky, in 2005 and had more than a hard time coping. The saving grace was that I was pregnant at the time, so I knew a new life would be coming into the world just as I was saying goodbye to my canine best friend. Over that first year I began writing to help express my emotions and loss. I actually wrote a poem which is VERY uncharacteristic of me, and started thinking more about becoming a full time writer. I was an attorney/lobbyist at the time, and always loved the writing aspect of my job. I would volunteer to write grants, memoranda, etc. and it finally hit me after losing Cato that I really just wanted to write. After the birth of my second child in 2006 and facing several serious health challenges with my ailing father, I decided to leave my full-time job and focus on writing. The idea for the book just sprang into my brain one day. It was part tribute to Cato, and part tribute to all the animals out there who have been abused.

What genre does your book fall under? The book is a mystery/thriller. There is a bit of whodunit woven throughout the first part of the novel, and the second part is more thriller, as Eden chases down the perpetrators, trying to stop the escalating violence.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? I actually chose pictures of famous people, not all celebrities, when I was working with my writing coach on my first draft. Since that was so long ago, I have updated a few cast members. I chose Evangeline Lilly (but with red hair) for Eden Hayduke; Rooney Mara for Harris Hampton; Aaron Paul for Councilman Jeff Saunders; and a young Benicio Del Toro for George Fuentes. Still working on ideas for Declan and Jillian. Colin Montgomery (British golfer) was the visual I had in my head for Phil Hampton (I’m not his biggest fan), although Kelsey Grammer would be a great choice.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A female investigator for the ASPCA battles Southern politics while solving local animal cruelty crimes and saving an abducted girl.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I do have agency representation and we are actively looking for a publishing home for my novel. So I am hopeful, but also realistic. Not sure where we’ll end up, so for now I’ll just optimistically say it will be published. Somewhere, somehow.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? This is embarrassing. It took close to 5 years to really finish the first draft. I had a rough outline of the novel in my head back in 2006, but it took months for me to really get started. I finally reached out to a great friend, Anne Guzzardi, who is a talented poet and writing coach. I hired her as my writing coach and we worked hard on the first draft for almost two years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? This is hard because the unusual thing about my book, and the fascinating thing to me, is that I haven’t found any other mystery novel that has an animal cruelty investigator as the protagonist. So unfortunately I don’t have a close comparison, although I do look to authors such as Harlan Coben, Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson for inspiration.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? I have always loved animals since I was a child. I was part of a team who worked on changing animal cruelty laws in Tennessee (from a misdemeanor to a felony) and learned so much about how crimes against women and children often start with crimes against animals. I wanted to highlight this link, but also entertain because I do love a cheesy novel I can pour through while sitting at the beach.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? In addition to the criminal aspect of the book, I weave in a lot of Southern politics and issues that are hot topics here in Nashville and throughout the country. And, of course, a bit of romance…

You’re next guys, I mean gals:

Vivian Slade recently published her beautiful audiobook and e-book the Dragon King, which truly was a family project. Her daughter Johannah illustrated the book, her younger daughter Sophia lent her voice to the townspeople, her husband Todd helped produce and sing on the project, and of course Vivian wrote the text and ALL OF THE ACCOMPANYING MUSIC! The score is so special, and Vivian (herself a talented singer/songwriter), pulled in so much of the Nashville musical talent to perform the songs it’s truly a work of art.

Ruthie Mason is working on her first novel, and is a loving talented teacher. We had the pleasure of getting to know Ruthie as she taught our oldest son, and have never met a more compassionate, thoughtful teacher. She now lives in Massachusetts but we are secretly hoping she will return to Nashville :)

 

A beautiful expression of hope and comfort in Newtown, courtesy of our canine friends

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It’s been a horrendous week, in fact a horrendous year. As a mother of a 1st and 3rd grader trying to explain what happened last week is impossible. And shouldn’t be necessary. And things were made even worse on Monday when our school was on lockdown for two hours due to a break-in. But I saw a story that brought me so much hope I wanted to share.

We are the proud, and sometimes angry, family to a rambunctious Golden Retriever named Rudolph who will turn 4 on Christmas Eve (hence the name Rudolph). We switch between yelling at him for eating unmentionable items and loving him so deeply it hurts. Well, we aren’t alone.

This week, a group of Golden Retrievers made the 800 mile trek from Chicago to Newtown, Connecticut to bring comfort. That’s it. Just to bring comfort. Because you can’t see an adorable dog looking at you, begging to be pet, and not rush over and smile. And kids more than anyone adore dogs and will accept the gesture of love and hope without question. No judgment, just pure love.

This week has been one of the saddest in our country’s history. But I am so proud to see our animal friends stepping up to the plate and bringing even the smallest amount of comfort to those who need it the most.

I just hope, as human beings, we’ll be able to do the same.

THANK YOU DOGS…YOU RULE!

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Dogs, golden retriever

 

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