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Inspired Thoughts – Strange Encounter

Due to light traffic, I pulled into Red Hawk Casino’s grand entrance early. I planned to meet girlfriends for dinner and some fun. As I entered the brightly lit casino, I was confronted with deafening noise and a wall of stink. Cigarette smoke caused my eyes and nose to water––unusual to cry before the gambling even started. The blackened doors closed behind me, locking out the fresh air and sunlight I’d just left.  

As far as I could see, metal soldiers stood on parade in perfect lines. Bright colors pulsed and blinked, while bells and whistles clamored for my attention.

Slot machines were created to lure and seduce humans. Many paid dearly to be teased to the brink of climax and then left unfulfilled. Some deposited even greater sums, hoping for a rare glimpse of the reclusive Lady Luck.      

This sucker planted herself in front of a talking lime-green frog who wore black shades. It sipped a tall cool drink through an oversized straw. 

One aisle up and to my right, I noticed a woman staring at me. I did not know her. I smiled and nodded, and resumed my romance with the hip frog who moved to the beat of island music. 

As if teleported, the woman was suddenly leaning against my machine. 

“Oh . . . hello,” I stammered.  

She flashed white teeth, and her skin was the color of my favorite Starbuck’s Mocha. I guessed she was fifty-five to sixty because of the gray strands woven into her dark combed-backed hair. She wore a simple Army-green dress and her hands rested under her bosom. She reminded me of the Jehova’s Witnesses’ who canvassed my neighborhood.  

She finally spoke. “You are a beautiful woman.” 

Those were not the words I expected. “That’s . . . a . . . kind of you to say.” 

She continued to stare, and made no move to leave. Unease gripped my gut.

“Your hair is stunning. I wish I had your color.” She touched her head.   

Who wants gray hair? Does she think it’s blonde? “Thank you,” I said. 

The encounter edged past awkward. I pushed the button on my machine, but my frog-friend didn’t care about my situation.  

“I’m used to noticing people. I lived in Japan when I was young; I’d never seen a Japanese person before. My dad was in the military, so I had to go. I didn’t like living there.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t like the experience.” 

She nodded. “We have a house full of things from that time.”

“Do you mean memorabilia from Japan?”

“Yes.” The woman gazed at me adoringly. “You sure are one pretty lady. Do you know . . . all kinds of people are going to walk up and start talking to you. They will be drawn.”

Her words hinted at prophecy, and my unease grew. “No, I didn’t know that,” I said.

The lady grinned, as if she knew something I did not.

I pretended interest in the spinning reels, and willed the lime-green frog to create a distraction. It remained silent. It had abandoned me.

This situation was getting to be too much. I stood. “Mr. Froggy here is not being nice. I need to find a friendlier machine. It was nice talking to you.”

The woman bowed her head. “It sure was.”

Dodging gamblers, I headed for the opposite side of the casino. I pulled my cell phone from my purse and discovered a text from my friends saying they had arrived and were waiting.  

As I made my way to them, I went over my “strange encounter of the third kind.” I’d never experienced anything like it before. I hadn’t got the impression I was being hit on––I was familiar with that scenario, and this wasn’t that. The exchange was simply odd.

When I found my girlfriends, I said, “You won’t believe what just happened.”


Two days later, I stopped for gas. I inserted the nozzle and began to pump. I noticed a car in front of mine, but no one was near the vehicle. A moment later, the driver emerged from the car. A woman, older than myself, with dyed black hair surveyed her surroundings. Her sunglasses pointed in my direction and she beelined toward me.

I was on guard. Was she going to ask for money? The woman drew near invading my space. 

I couldn’t see her eyes, so I focused on her shiny red lips. The same red warpaint was smudged across her chin. She spoke in a husky whisper. “Have you ever heard that real women don’t pump gas, and real men don’t eat quiche?”

I laughed in relief. “I haven’t heard that for a long time. And yet, here I am pumping gas.”

Throaty giggles escaped her scarlet lips, as she disappeared into the gas station store.  

A bell rang; the casino lady’s prediction stood front and center: People will begin to walk up and talk to you. They will be drawn. Was it starting? 

Written By Erin G. Burrell

Author of: That’s Why You’re Here  

Inspired Thoughts – Horny Grannies

The Great Debate – Horny Grannies & Outlander

When it comes to Sam Heughan, the Outlander star who embodies James Fraser, I’ll admit I’m one of the “horny grannies” his co-star, Caitriona Balfe (Claire Fraser), mentioned in an interview. (Which now seems to have vanished through the stones on social media!) Her comments caused quite a stramash, and some felt the label disrespected fans. (I was not one of them.) 

Ms. Balfe seemed unsettled by “older women” who clamored for more sex scenes, like those found in Season 1. Some people surmised that her negative rhetoric about said scenes, and her star power, explained the lack of sexual liaisons in Season 4. Others suggested she no longer wished to undress and be so exposed.   

I wasn’t surprised by the cry for Jamie and Claire to have additional boudoir scenes, given the chemistry between Sam and Cait, and given Diana Gabaldon’s talent for writing the hottest sex scenes in print. (Fire extinguishers accompany each book sold.)  

Gabaldon’s Outlander series is unique in that it’s a love story between a husband and wife who respect and remain passionate for each other over decades . . . and across time. (Claire has a thing for time travel and stone circles.) The couple’s mutual adoration shines through, on paper and film. Who wouldn’t want to see more “between the sheets” action from Jamie and Claire? We know the actors could deliver the amorous goods (See Season 1 – The Wedding), but subsequent seasons of Outlander haven’t remained faithful to the Fraser’s sizzling encounters as detailed in books.

In my opinion, it’s those missing segments that got the horny grannies all hot and bothered to begin with. I should know, I’m one of them and come from a long line of horny grannies. 

My grandmother told stories of men she lusted for. (In her heart, like Jimmy Carter.) In one telling, her eyes glazed over when she spoke of Rudolph Valentino, an actor in silent films. She buzzed about how handsome he was in The Sheik, and how he’d made her knees “go weak.” I was too young to understand her infatuation, or that a person’s look could spawn a physical reaction.

By the time my mom confided her fascination with Paul Newman, I understood animal attraction. Paul’s infamous baby-blues lit up the big screen, to say nothing of his acting abilities. His features in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were stunning, but Robert Redford’s looks stopped my heart. My mother and I bonded while transfixed by the movie’s poster on my bedroom wall.

I’ve always appreciated handsome men. They are like Michelangelo’s David, except God is the credited artist. My affinity for men was one reason I had no problem with Cait’s take on grandmothers. I also have no problem expressing my wanton desires to have more sex scenes in Outlander. (Jamie and Claire’s enthusiastic lovemaking hasn’t waned in the books, why should it on the show?) 

Caitriona’s comments suggest that older women should get their jollies from knitting, or some other pastime, rather than from romantic fiction. As if menopausal women no longer hungered for intimacy. And that, my friends, was what this old lady took issue with.

I may be a wee bit weathered on the outside, crinkled and wrinkled by age and sun, but on the inside, I’m a feisty chick of thirty-something, with age-appropriate longings. I’m not dead yet, and won’t pretend to be.    

I’ve watched and read Outlander, umpteen times, and certain storylines have caused physical reactions. (The reason for my repeated readings.) Whenever Jamie utters Sassenach, I’m done. Sam’s low-registered voice, combined with his Scottish accent, melts my heart like a Hershey’s Kiss on a warm tongue.

There is little wonder why this older woman has drawn Outlander and Sam Heughan to her breast. (I can think of no better resting place for his head.) Sam’s gym videos showing his sweat-drenched frame pushed my heart into AFib territory. His physique, on Instagram and “On Demand,” has had another alarming effect. It’s driven my own menopause into remission, and I’m forced to add Tampax to my shopping list.

This granny is demanding Starz to do the right thing. Millions read the Outlander series, and have supported the show – I’m one of those millions. My request is that the sex scenes that seduced us in Gabaldon’s books be embraced again by the television show, not discarded like some worn-out kilt. (The chaste kissing in Season 4 has got to go.) I want to see sparks fly between the Frasers, and hear their words of love as written. (I know it can be done because I’ve watched every episode.) There is a need to see a happily sex-crazed middle-aged couple in a mature and loving relationship. 

Most authors write about what they know; Diana doesn’t appear to be an exception. (She recently celebrated her 42nd wedding anniversary.) Through her novels, we see she is well-versed in the intricacies of marriage, as well as the intimacies. That’s the magic that exists between the covers of her books, and what has captured my soul.    

I’ve read numerous articles about why Starz and the writers can’t keep to Diana’s books. Too much material, adaptation problems, and changing story arcs were discussed. I’ve understood why various characters and storylines were cut to fit into the reduced thirteen episode parameter. (Season 1 had 16 episodes and was by far the best.) 

Over the last four years I’ve observed what scenes remained authentic to the books, and what was cast aside. (Some choices boggled the mind.) I’m begging Starz to stick to the printed words wherever Jamie and Claire’s carnal relations are expressed. The lack of those scenes in Season 4 was what created this “horny granny.” So beware! Riotous horny grannies could be unleashed the world over if Season 5 comes costumed in a chastity belt.

Written By Erin G. Burrell

Author of: That’s Why You’re Here   

Inspired Thoughts – 4 Words You Never Want To Hear From Your Vet.

“Your cat has cancer.”

I was gut-punched; the air hissed out of my lungs like a pierced balloon. I stared at Dr. Gray. She obviously grabbed the wrong chart. 

“My cat? You’re talking about Pebbles . . . right?”

Dr. Gray nodded. “I’m sorry I have to deliver this news. There is a treatment plan we can put in place to make her comfortable the rest of her days.”

I went numb. The rest of her days? She looks fine. 

“How long?” I choked. “How long do you think she has?”

The doctor stroked Pebbles’s head. “Depending on how she responds to the medication, two months to a year.”

My eyes blurred with tears. The thought of my cat not being a part of my everyday life was too much to take in.   

We had gotten Pebbles shortly after my husband died. My daughter and I had visited several shelters, and ended up at an animal rescue along the Sacramento River. A woman had turned her home into a haven for cats. Yes, a legit cat-house. Construction was ongoing, as the owner added room after room, large closets really, giving Mrs. Winchester a run for her money. 

We searched through all of the enclosures, and it came down to two kittens: a black one and a white one. We played with both and debated. Then, the white kitten, with light-brown markings on her face, tried to crawl up my daughter’s bare leg, as if to say, “Take me home!” And that’s what we did.

During our first night together, Pebbles clawed her way up my bedspread, attacking it like it was Mount Everest. Once she reached the peak, she claimed what had been my husband’s side of the bed. It was reassuring for my hand to find a warm body near me, even one so tiny and furry. The hairy cotton ball soon became not only a family member, but a steady comfort. 

As an indoor cat, Pebbles followed us everywhere. Her little paws worked hard to keep up with our longer strides, but traversing the house caused her to drop from exhaustion and fall asleep. 

After short naps, she continued exploring her new digs and found a few secret hiding places. In the early days, I’d be in a panic trying to find her, fearful she had escaped somehow. Once I’d discovered her favorite resting places were inside cupboards and in the backs of closet shelves, finding her became a treasure hunt.

Our kitten soon grew to adulthood, with her own distinct personality. Always a clean-freak, Pebbles elevated grooming to another level, especially after a meal. The ritual commenced with an upward lift of a paw that was met and moistened by a rough pink tongue. The paw then moved gently across her mouth, several times, removing unseen morsels. The act was repeated with the other paw, as if it were a starched white napkin and she’d just dined with the Queen.    

For the past thirteen years, Pebbles has given me great joy and companionship. How can I possibly say good-bye?

I know how to do grief, Lord knows I’ve had my share, but I have never done “end of life” with a family pet. What makes it all the harder, is that Pebbles is the only member who practices unconditional love. And what she has given me, I cherish. 

My job now is to make her happy and comfortable. I do not want her to suffer. I’ve decided to spoil her by doing the things she delights in most. At the top of her list is having her front feet massaged. I take a paw between my thumb and fingers, and rub and apply gentle pressure that extends and contracts her nails. All the while, Pebbles sits in my lap, eyes half closed, wearing a dreamy faraway look.   

I don’t know how many days we have left, but when you know they are numbered, each one becomes more precious.

I’m not the only person who talks to their pet, so it should come as no surprise that Pebbles and I have had several tearful exchanges––she, the master of stoicism. With much cajoling on my part, she has agreed to let me know when the good of her days no longer outweighs the bad. 

Pebbles is under treatment, and each morning she suffers through my fumbling attempts to medicate her. (Getting a pill down an animal’s throat is no fun for either party.) 

My wish is that we will continue being silly and enjoying each other’s company. In the evenings, as Pebbles hunkers down on my chest to sleep, we are heart to heart. Her purr is a vibrating song that echos through my body, connecting us . . . making me pray for a long goodbye.

Written By Erin G. Burrell

Author of That’s Why You’re Here