Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good straws

The straw that breaks the camel's back.

Too much responsibility, burden, anger, hatred are contenders.

What about the small things that can cheer your heart.

A picture from Representative John Lewis' Facebook Page   shows two adorable cats trotting with him.

If you have ever owned spoiled cats, you can appreciate the bond these two obviously have with their owner. I always hold cat owners in high esteem. It takes a certain openness and love of independence to be owned by a cat.

It's small items that warm your heart. Watching a mother bird feeding her young is lighter, quicker.

Several mockingbirds stay an arm's length from me each morning as I walk my dogs to pick up the newspaper down by the road. They eat the dark blue berries of the honeysuckle vine. I've hung seed bells I bought but the birds have not been eating them.

I had a list of small items last night. They have been lost.  I'm on the lookout for pick me ups in life. What is something small that gave you joy?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Signing up for A to Z

2016 Challenge

I believe in magic. This sentence was written to jog my memory of a great blog topic. Unfortunately it has reminded me of zilch.

A schedule is good for me. Following it is the problem. Today is the sign-up for Blogging A to Z in April. I did the challenge last April and had a blast. I have tentatively worked on my blog posts so I can spend time every day visiting other blogs. There are always too many to check out.

This year, I will be a minion of Alex Cavanaugh. He is one of the hosts of the challenge. Last year I helped Susan Gourley.

Essentially, I read blog posts and report if there is a problem. The biggest problem are people who are eager to do the challenge but fail to make posts. Sort of like when you buy tickets for an event or say you will go to some party and when it happens, you wish you hadn't. You got other things to do or it would be great to just watch television.

There are spam blogs which the A to Z make quick work of deleting. Crazy sales blogs which make no sense to English speakers or porn. One blog last year opened into something weird. I can't remember exactly what it did. However, two days later it opened with a normal blog post.

Looking at different blogs, I learned what I don't want to do with my blog. I also found some great blogs. I am listing a few of the great blogs I visit below. Some I came across in the challenge, some I discovered when I read someone's comment on another blog and decided to check them out.

One thing that I do is comment on blogs. If it is a blog which gets a million hits a week, I comment if I have something to say. Otherwise, I always try to say something. I think we are all curious who comes a calling.

Writing comments has helped my responses be more conversational. It is true, the more you create, the more creative you become. The same is true for expressing yourself. The A to Z challenge is all about making friends. Surprisingly, all of the big wigs will visit you and comment on your blog. Many times before you make it to their blog.

Eight great blogs - not in order of how I like them. I visit many more than this on a regular basis. So I can make this Eight great blog list many times again. This is just the tip of the iceberg. However this will keep you busy unless you dive right in reading bloggers who sign up for A to Z. If you are interested in signing up, this is a link for A to Z challenge.

1.  Bouncing Barb in Florida    Barb is a memoirist who has quite an interesting life. Her blog is friendly and you feel like you have known her your whole life.

2. Arlee Bird   Wrote by Rote by Arlee Bird is full of personal stories about Arlee's life as a professional in the entertainment world and his family who were professional jugglers. Arlee has another much larger blog called Tossing it out. Arlee is the founder and host of the A to Z challenge.

3. Writing in the Crosshairs is a writer's blog that gives great tips on writing and blogging. Roland Yeoman makes reference to so many ideas and quotes, his blog is incredible.  Roland Yeoman writes historical fiction in a sci-fi format. I have purchased several of his books but only read "Her Bones are in the Badlands". He states he is not well known but his writing is brilliant. If you like Kurt Vonnegut, you will really like Yeoman.

4. Rhyme Time by Pat Hatt was the first blogger I met through A to Z. Pat writes books for adults and children. He posts a humorous poem everyday. I don't know how he does it but he does. Supposedly the blog is written by two cats, Orlin and Cassie. I enjoy his blog in that my dad could speak in rhymes. It just has a joy to it.

5. Romance and Mystery writer, Maris Soule gives incredibly useful and straightforward tips for any writer. The last blog post discussed how you format a manuscript to submit to agents or publishers. I did not know that either will automatically reject your manuscript if it is not formatted properly. They have much to choose from. I've read one of Maris' romantic thrillers called "A Murder of Crows" and it was a great read.

6. Pastimes, Passions, Paraphernalia is a terrific blog by Carolyn von Poppel from Australia. Her posts are a mix of memoir and everyday life which is fascinating for this American.

7. Donetta's world  Donetta's blog is a very creative mix of fiction and personal observations. Donetta is a very talented writer who I met when I participated in Trifecta challenges.

8. TMW Hickman's Not Just Another Mother Blogger is filled with personal observations. Hickman is currently a cancer survivor and was bold enough to share the hell which is chemo and radiation. I first met her with Trifecta and a few other bloglist sites.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

It's hard to be cool in depends or being cool depends.

I got into my new Chevy this morning. The seat was so warm, I thought, has someone peed on my seat? No way, I just put the dogs in. I hadn't peed. Besides, I don't feel any dampness. Then I think, this car has buttons for seat warmers. I cranked the car remotely this morning. The car told me it was cold outside yesterday and be mindful of slippery roads. The car must have warmed the seats for me.

I went to the ocean for the first time when I was twelve. Our Girl Scout troop camped on Jekyll Island. My dad was one of the chaperones. He told the ladies he wanted to create memories. Truth is he was overprotective. My first dip in the ocean and dang my nose was running. I had snot in my mouth. I wasn't about to tell my friend who was busy jumping in the water with me. She yelled, "Can you taste the salt?" I was like "Oh Yeah, I can taste the salt" as the light bulb went on in my head.

Story of my life, pretending to be cool. It is an art form when you aren't naturally cool.

Now I may be dealing with another social faux pas in life. I'm that bossy older woman. I'm not totally there in that whether some of these millennials and Gen X know it, I am not that old! I got some pretty good years in front of me. Bossy is just part of my charm, my je ne sais quoi.

There are people working full time jobs at my age because they need the money. I need the money too. It is just that there is only one of me, and it is cheaper to not work than to work and hire people to do what I do. But when these kids look at me, they see retiree and then they add insult to injury by forgetting to give me my senior citizen discount. Bumpskilly!

My old vet had his staff roll the red carpet out for me which I liked. I would go back but they do not offer emergency service. After the tragic death of my black lab mix Patty Cakes, I vowed to never not have an emergency vet. So I am their customer. The vets are nice and good. But I got to get this staff trained, and I have a feeling it ain't going to happen.

So life moves on. When I retired from teaching, I gave up my throne. I joked my classroom was my kingdom which I ruled. Little did I know, there was some truth there. Now, I'm just another older woman talking to the cashier who is another older woman who gets stopped by an even older older woman. I think, how far am I from that beautiful white haired lady who had what I thought was an incredibly stiff and bored daughter. Meh, She must be hired help. I hope when my time comes, I get someone who laughs and smiles with me.

I have lost power in other ways. I know to write I should put on a more youthful countenance. Did I say I have stopped coloring my hair blonde. Gray is not that bad, not that great either. But it looks a lot better than the long hair dude at grocery store with dark hair and inch long white roots. Honesty has an appeal. Not as great as being slim, young, rich, talented, attractive and cool, but you just can't maintain it. If you do, you wind up looking like catwoman or cartoon man and a fool.

So next time I make an appointment at the vet, I plan to walk in. They always have a harder time not being helpful when you are in person. My expectations will be much lower. So when the good stuff happens, I'll enjoy it more.

And I do not wear depends, yet. But I'm going to buy the sexy black ones when I do. You'll recognize me, I'll be the hot chick in the senior center. I'm not only going to dye my hair bright red, I'll add a perm to make sure I got big hair. Meanwhile I have heated seats that feel great when it is cold out.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Good Side of Negativity

It's Monday, my blog feed is full of blog posts. Now where were they yesterday when I took a lazy day and had time to read them.

I learn I am out of sync with the blog world. There are weekday mornings at such and such a time guaranteed to get you a larger audience. I would be specific but I don't remember or don't care. Not that I don't care about my blog. More like, I will write what I can, and if it looks good enough I will hit publish. I've heard of blog posts going viral.

I doubt any of mine go viral. It would make me swallow my heart. I have my real name out there. You never know how all the trolls in the world will react much less the "holier than thou" brigade with their sense of indignant indignation addiction. There is the dual dimension of all writing. You can say one thing but someone else can read another.

Just call me chicken liver. I learned at my mother's knee to avoid an argument.

So - I have spent a great deal of time commenting. It is my way of working myself up to standing my ground. I know that does not make me sound very tough, much less cool. I said, call me chicken liver. I quiver.

I don't know why I recoil from criticism. Criticism makes you better. There is a point you need to consider if criticism is rubbish. Oh so very confusing when it is easier to not agree with anything negative which is the gist of this post.

I've been following Facebook and blog posts discussing race in books.

One is about the Scholastic pulling the book, "A Birthday Cake for Washington" which is a children's picture book discussing a slave chef of President Washington baking a cake with his daughter. It is a worthy topic in that the slave Hercules was very accomplished. However the delivery of that story would take the wisdom of Solomon to make people happy.

What is shocking to me is how the writer and illustrator are being threatened online and personally. Have we lost our minds in this country? Alright, you hate the topic and inferences. The writer, illustrator and Scholastic should get an award for Bravery and Foolishness to embrace the topic.

In humility, I feel so much sympathy for them being attacked. I also feel their sadness. Proud to write and illustrate a book on an honorable topic and have it blow back up in their face.

These topics do need to be taught in school. I felt so awkward when an African American child wanted to interview me about life before the civil right's movement. They were being children looking for the easiest and quickest way to get a report written. The first time, I answered the questions and told them the facts I knew. The next year, I wanted to tell them to interview someone black, but, I didn't. They were sincere. So, I gingerly broached the topic once again.

I never had a problem. No colleague asked me how I became an expert. No parent got upset, and I know of one who read over her daughter's paper. It wasn't that I was that great. It was personal one on one. But how do you write a book on these topics that will please a broader group of people? If you have an easy answer, I'm sure your talents can be used for more lofty topics like peace in the Middle East.

The other one is a blog I read occasionally about Native American literature. Although I don't always agree with the blogger Debbie Reese, it bothers me that what she says is being drowned with people calling her negative. Native Americans are not a large percentage of our population. If they withdraw, protest or boycott, will anyone notice. I also think what she has to say has to be heard even if you do not agree.

You would think I agree with her. Some of what she says is picky or misunderstood. Sometimes, it is point of view that I did not know. Other times, I think everyone should know that. She has a reason for how she feels. She is giving a real unexpressed viewpoint which should not be taken lightly. We get so used to people keeping the peace and not making waves that we don't recognize when people are giving us the gift of honesty.

I do think she needs to write some complimentary or light-hearted posts. I do not read her blog to completion more because they are pretty much the same post just different books.


I have not read "A Cake for Washington". I would probably like the book. I don't know if I would have used it in my classroom. 90 percent of black people were enslaved in the United States during slavery. I know from experience it has nothing to do with the topic but how the child handles the topic.

So I think it is obvious why public criticism is scary.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Having a guilty conscience

Some would say I was born with a guilty conscience. I have never liked to be in trouble.

I'm not alone. I told a colleague that I was writing a book about teaching science with the subtitle, "I've never been teacher of the year but I have been called on the carpet a few times". She did not know me well and said, "I don't like to get in trouble." She was not a Southerner so she did not get the joke.

I have been reading about styles of humor. There is Irish humor, Jewish humor. I would say Southern humor is related to Irish humor but the Brits can be pretty funny too.

Guilt, we can all have it. I have always heard of Jewish guilt. My big thing is I don't like to dish trash out to other people. I've had plenty dished my way and it is sickening. I had a nasty parent who made outrageous claims on behalf of her daughter. My mom had broke her hip the day before, and I was at work getting ready to be gone the next couple of days.

I had that choice. Spend time straightening out the situation or move on, apologize and keep everything on schedule. I apologized and paid for it the rest of the year. The mother would periodically come on the warpath for me and sometimes several teachers. She went as far to try to assist her daughter in a piss fight with another little girl. The other little girl was petrified. The principal intervened.

The real tragedy is the child in question was a good girl and very bright. However, mom was undermining her education. The last I had heard of the girl was when she was 18. Her boyfriend had accidently shot her as he was moving in her mother's house with her. I doubt she went to college although she was quite capable.

This is where it would be good where teachers had more autonomy. I had to do the politically right thing. My boss knew that was what I was doing. But it was never the right thing for the child. And I feel some guilt. I know mom was working from her insecurities. She was paranoid her child was going to be picked on. It doesn't take a big leap to know the mother was picked on.

Her jerk threatening email, which the boss she was threatening me with telling me to not take it personal, was the hallmark of someone who has a problem with interpersonal skills. I'm not the sharpest tack in the box, but, I know raging anger is a last resort in negotiation. Anger is preferably used defending yourself from an ax murderer. My dad always quoted the Greek proverb, "When the Gods decide to destroy you, they make you angry".

For almost all parents, I told them straight what I thought. People know when you are on their side. Almost all parents agreed with me. When they didn't, if it did not affect the other children, I went along with them. I had one parent who did not like my making their child keep an organized notebook. So, I did not take that child's notebook.

I did something mean at a writer's conference which I have felt guilty about. A nice, nerdy man (hence the guilt) was talking about his noble family roots. The deep South has an obsession with their family history and its association with the genteel, southern aristocracy. Before everyone jumps to conclusions, not all rich Southerners were slave owners. The grandest antebellum house in Macon, the Hay house, was built by William Johnston who made his money through banking, utilities and railroads.

I hauled off and shut him down. Those Midwesterners looked stunned. They did not know what happened. I would not care, but this is a person I was rude to; because, I hate that Southern shill. I was leaving when I did it and embarrassed immediately. Poor guy did not know why I had that response. If I had thought, I would have apologized. He did nothing wrong.

There are two South's. There is the Deep South that embraced it's aristocratic roots.

Early settlements in North Carolina and Virginia were often from the second, third and other sons of English aristocrats. The first son inherited all and the rest had to do their best to make a living in the world. North American colonies were a perfect place to build a living. Slavery sullied this idealist situation. Downton Abbey downplayed the extreme differences in living conditions of the staff and gentry.

The other South is Appalachia. It was a small farmer area with different mindsets. You usually think of banjos and the movie Deliverance. However, it was a sea of many people. Researching my mom's family tree, there is quite a bit of diversity. One great-grandmother was descended from Quakers and the Puritans. A great-grandfather was German and native American with a last name which is common in the Mennonite communities today.

The common characteristic was hard work and resourcefulness. Yes, there were and are some pitifully ignorant people. But, that is the plight of the world. Look at the descendants of J. Paul Getty. So many of them died prematurely from drug addictions. People born with a silver spoon destined to lead miserable lives.

Although I have been guilty of enjoying family history, I detest that family tree rot. It is the injustice and assumptions of people who have done nothing wrong. I taught the "great unwashed" and many of them I knew would never live much better than their families. I have former students who work in low paid jobs who turned out incredibly well. They are so well adjusted and good members of society.

I just did not know I had such a strong opinion. I would like to apologize to that man in front of those people. But it happened.

So I understand how a pet peeve can out rule logic. In taking care of family members, I know more intimately how my attitude affects the entire household. It was the same attitude I used to keep children happy to learn better. And I feel guilt I spread negativity. But it happens.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


I love winter. I love the outdoors. I even love the glare of early morning going East and late evening going West. Of course, I avoid driving during those times if I can. I'm not crazy. Although a few students would have questioned that.

I gave an assignment one day and this male student exclaimed, "Are you crazy?" I told him deadpan, "I could be. You better get started." He rolled his eyes at me. I winked at him.

This morning was gorgeous. The sky was a gray blue with white clouds. The sun was red across the horizon and through the orchards as I drove my brother to his bus to the workshop he attends. When the sun is bright, I call the kick of energy I feel glitterati which is not to be confused with the fictional Illuminati.

This is a busy season for me. With the trees, vines and grass dormant for the winter, I can clear ground for fencing. I am putting a Rio Grande fence up in my backyard. I've got six ankle biters who need to be protected from the hell they can raise.

The people who live on the adjoining property have a white bulldog. He came in my yard in December and mom's two Chihuahuas sent him packing. I think he just wanted to hang with the gang. I don't think the two sisters can handle a fox or coyote. For that matter, an armadillo and opossum would spell trouble for those two.

My legs glow in the dark
My goal for the New Year is to meditate and exercise. I love to exercise. Meditate, I don't know. I've always thought it was a good idea. I have never done it. I don't think getting a pedicure would count.  Prevention magazine describes a counting sort of meditation.

When I searched the topic I learned this is a Buddhist practice and there is a form of Christian meditation. Since I am a Christian, I plan to use the Buddhist technique and it will be Christian because that is my belief.

I have also been agnostic for much of my life. Belief did not come easy. Difficulties in life made me turn spiritual. So there will be some Christian meditation. I found some guided meditations to use from UCLA. They also have online courses. I'm a little cheap. Actually, very cheap - I'll test out the free ones and buy a book if I want to learn more. The online class is $169.

Why I got to learn more?

Do you meditate and what do you do or do you avoid thinking at all cost?

Flock of cranes


 Zephyr is a soft, peaceful breeze. And I thought it had to be an imaginary animal. For many of you, we will not meet again until the next A...