The Good Old Days Weren’t Always So Good.

When I was a young girl my grandmother would tell me stories about the “good-old days,” while showing me worn-out, black and white pictures of family members long-passed before I was born, or of those I knew, but with unfamiliar faces, fifty or sixty years younger than the faces I recognized. I was at the age where I thought old people were always old. So it was hard for me to imagine a time long ago when my elderly uncles hung from trees wearing sailor hats, or my aunts who walked with canes, swing-dancing in the middle of a crowded ballroom – even though it was right there in the pictures.

I looked through the old, torn-at-the-edges pictures believing my grandmother as she spoke fondly of a past where people lived “simple lives, spent time together, and didn’t do bad things to each other.” I believed in the superiority of the “black and white picture” era, and that the people and the times then were so much better than they were in 1985, until I learned better.

The “good-old days” weren’t good for everyone. And people did do bad things to each other. They stole. They cheated. They scammed. They murdered. They were opportunistic when they should have been empathetic and moral. In the last century alone, some of the most horrific acts against man occurred, yet somehow those years are still considered “the good old days.”

I don’t have the space in this blog to detail these atrocities, but pick up a history book. It’s all there. The past was just as unscrupulous as the present. I was reminded of this fact on July, 24 2015 while reading an article in the Chicago Sun-Times about a tragedy that had occurred on that date one hundred years ago.

On July 24, 1915 a passenger ship called the Eastland capsized in the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, within two dozen feet of shore. Crowds of people, possibly loved ones of the passengers, who had watched the vessel leave its dock, threw ropes and chairs, whatever they could find, into the water. There were hundreds of splashing, terrified people, including children, struggling to stay afloat on the surface of the Chicago River. The situation was worse for women because they were tucked tightly into their long and heavy dresses, impossible to take off by the time they were weighted down.

Eight hundred and forty-four people died that day. It is reported that some bystanders did jump in the water to try save as many lives as they could. But others used the tragedy as an opportunity to take advantage of people by picking the pockets of a concerned and distracted crowd, and some opportunists even robbed the dead. The Sun-Times wrote that the captain delayed a rescue attempt because he was concerned about a boiler explosion. The police would later be accused of not attempting to help the people in the river, instead maintaining the crowd and holding back possible rescuers.

The public was morbidly curious to see as much of the tragedy as they could, and after the bodies were recovered from the vessel and water, a make-shift morgue was created at the scene so loved ones could identify the bodies. The spot was closed off for privacy, but a janitor of a nearby building charged peepers a dime for a look…at dead people…as families mourned.

When the names of the deceased were released, and this included 22 entire families, some of the homes were robbed.

This made me think back to when my oldest sister got married. I was nine and my parents arranged for someone to be at our house while we were gone.

“Why do we need someone to stay at the house when we’re not here?” my younger-self asked.

“Because people will see in the newspaper that we’re having a wedding and assume no one will be here, and then rob the house.”

I’d never heard of such a thing, and certainly I would never have considered something like that happening in the “good-old days,” because people in black and white photos were better than the people living in the eighties. They wouldn’t rob a family’s house during a wedding…let alone a funeral.

But they did, and despite knowing the dark truths about the past, I still catch myself romanticizing the “good-old days” whenever I look at black and white photos from a past generation because I want to believe there really was a time when people didn’t do bad things to one another.

boy and a dog     boy in background

boy and truck

*The Chicago Sun-Times was my only source for this article. All of my facts, number of people dead, details of the tragedy, came from the article.

**Note:I do not own these pictures. I believe they are public domain, but if they happen to violate any copyright laws, I will take them down.

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Give a Pit Bull a Chance

In the summer of 2013 I started volunteering at an animal shelter near my house. Volunteering my time with animals was something I’d wanted to do for years, however my lack of good health had gotten in the way. But as soon as my body allowed, I hurried at the chance to focus my attention on something other than myself. I had suddenly felt normal again.

Since that summer, I have gone from volunteering 1 1/2 hours a week to 8 – 10 hours, and hope to commit more of my time in the future because I love what I do.

There is a dog at the shelter I have bonded with named Sable. I go to see her on days outside of my “scheduled” shift because she has created for herself a permanent place inside my heart. She is an amazing dog who has been at the shelter longer than she should be because unfortunately for her, she is part-pit bull. She isn’t unfortunate because there is anything inherently wrong with the breed. Sable is unfortunate because there is everything inherently wrong with the stigma humans place on pit bulls.

Just this past week, Sable was twice passed-up because she is part-pit bull. I was told one woman took a fondness of her while watching Sable through her kennel, but when told of her breed, the woman balked that she would never take a pit bull home, and then moved on to the next kennel. And then there was a family who were very interested in giving Sable a home, but found out their apartment complex has a no bully-breed dog policy. This is a big reason why pit bulls and pit bull-mixes are the most-highly euthanized dogs in the country – they are discriminated against by both people and businesses. Statistics vary, but the most solid report is 2800 pit bulls are killed each day. That’s over a million a year.

However, the fate isn’t much better for the pit bulls who do manage to live because this breed is probably the most abused dogs on the planet. With the internet and social media, it’s hard to escape the images of the consequences of dog-fighting. And you know what? It should be hard to escape these images because they show the reality of what horrible and cruel human beings create. And we need to see these images every…single…day because these gruesome acts occur every…single…day.

Sable has no idea how close she had come, this week alone, to finding her furever home. She is unaware of any “pre-determined prejudice” against her. She’s as happy-go-lucky of a dog you’ll ever meet. When I am with her, her body language doesn’t scream out “poor me” or “nobody loves me” or “why am I still here!”

Sable lives in the moment, as most dogs do. When I make my way toward her kennel, (she’s about five runs down from the entrance) and she’s curled up sleeping sweetly on her bed, I’ll squat down quietly and whisper, “Hello pretty girl. Are you ready?” Sable jumps at the sound of my voice and wags her tail madly because she knows it’s time to play in the yard. She’ll lick my face through the cage and then spin her body toward the doggie door, waiting impatiently for me to open the run.

Aside from being part-pit bull, Sable is also half-lab, and it is the lab-side of her that’s been showing a lot this summer as we’ve been playing with the hose. Sable absolutely loves water and I dare anyone not to crack up while watching her leap high to catch the water sprinkling in all directions. She never tires of jumping into the fountain of water I create by sticking my fingers against the opening of the hose and spraying it toward the sky, splashes form all around us.

Sable’s favorite game with the hose is when I spray the hose directly at her face and she tries to catch the water with her teeth. Spending these days with her is the epitome of what summer should be – hot, laughter-filled, care-free days playing with a hose.

When it’s time to put the hose away, I dry her off on a porch in the yard with a towel. Although she will attempt to lunge toward the pool a couple times, when I give her a stern “no,” she knows play time is over and lays quietly beside me and lets me dry her off. I think she enjoys the gentle massage as I rub the towel over her body. Dogs love being pampered…maybe shelter dogs the most. Before I bring her in, we lie across the porch, Sable cuddled against me, and we rest in the shade of a gorgeous summer day.

When I take Sable, or any other dog in the shelter, out, they leave their kennels behind. Each dog is completely committed to enjoying every second out of their cages. They don’t waste precious moments worrying about when their time will be up, and they’ll be back in their small cages with nothing but a bed, a bowl of water, and a nyla-bone to occupy their time.

Once outside in the yards, the dogs are too busy having fun living in the moment to waste their time lamenting about where they’ll be twenty minutes from then.

People, who almost always carry our heavy burdens with us everywhere we go, can learn so much from these loving animals.

Below is a link to a video of me and Sable playing with a hose.

To know a pit bull is to love a pit bull.  sable with ball and tongue

Sable smiling Sable with ball

Sable with tongue out

If you’re looking for a pet, please consider visiting your local animal shelter. Animals at shelters are not broken. They are not “dirty.” Most puppies from pet stores come from puppy mills where their mothers live in horrible condit Please visit thepuppymillproject.org for more information.

Also, if possible, please don’t overlook an animal just because he or she may be a pit bull or pit bull mix. I know first-hand these dogs make great companions and are loving and loyal animals. I’ve had a pit bull-mix for five years and there is no better dog out there – well, maybe Sable runs a close second. 🙂

Vala Kaye Introduces Her YA Novella, Ghost Writer

by Vala Kaye

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

Not all the people you meet during your teen years will become your BFFs, but if you’re very fortunate, one or two might always be with you to share the ups and downs that happen to us as we go through life.

I have two “lifetime” friends. One I met in junior high and the other in high school. One is similar to me in temperament, while the other couldn’t be more different. We’ve shared school experiences; engagements, marriages and divorces; the birth of children; and the deaths of grandparents, parents and siblings.

Those are the big things, the huge emotional highs and lows that only time and the love and caring of true friends can help see you through. But we’ve also always been there for one another through the smaller things in life, everything from movie nights and mid-terms to concerts and cooking disasters.

When I was working on my YA paranormal novella, Ghost Writer, I gave my main character, Malden, a friend named Ashley. They go to the same school and I suspect they’re truly BFF’s. When I was writing the scenes where Malden and Ashley, though physically separated by hundreds of miles, are online in their school’s student chat room, I thought about how my friends and I sound when we’re filling each other in on “the latest.” Not only do we talk about what’s happening to us and what we’re feeling, but sometimes we also pick up on what our lifetime friends aren’t saying, what they’re holding inside because they’re afraid of being embarrassed or laughed at.

Because we love them, we have to gently remind them just who they’re talking to. With a lifetime friend, they’re safe. And it’s okay to share anything.

Here is a short intro to my YA Paranormal. I hope you enjoy it.

Tech-savvy teen Malden Montgomery leaves New York City anticipating nothing but boredom when her artist-mother brings her along on a two-week vacation to a family inn in rural Virginia.

What Malden doesn’t expect is the owner’s 17-year-old son, Jackson, who is totally to-die-for cute. But does she dare believe him when he tells her that her room at the inn may be haunted by a young woman named Emily, who died there more than 150 years ago?

Then Emily begins to communicate with Malden and she and Jackson realize they have to find a way to help Emily’s ghost come back home or risk a spirit’s wrath if they choose to leave her lost in the darkness forever.

Read more about Ghost Writer on Amazon.

Vala Kaye grew up in Texas as an avid reader of science fiction, history and romance. Her favorite writers ran the gamut from Robert Heinlein to Margaret Mitchell, and included side journeys with Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” and The Hardy Boys mysteries.

After graduating from college with a double major in Communications and History, Vala now lives and writes in warm and sunny southern California. She is addicted to movies, live theater, word games, salsa dancing and adaptations of the stories of Jane Austen.

In her first published YA novella, Ghost Writer, she explores what happens when a human ‘spirit’ meets computer technology. Vala’s newest title is book #1 of The Superhero Next Door series, Artificial Intelligence.