I’ve been honored with the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award!

Wonderful Team Member Readership AwardAwww…I’m so fortunate to have such good friends in the blogosphere!  One of my besties is a cat named Shrimp from Hairball Express, who has kindly nominated me for the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award!  I love reading Shrimp’s perspective on putting up with – I mean, living with – the humans of the household, and of course, their offspring (Creatures).  My cats, of course, can totally relate to some of Shrimp’s frustrations; for example, when I momentarily forget that they are the center of the universe and I accidentally put my own needs ahead of theirs (you just heard five simultaneous tail slaps, didn’t you?!).  But I digress.  Thanks so much, Shrimp, for nominating me for this award!  I will put some high-grade catnip in the mail for you post haste, and I would nominate YOU for this award had you not nominated me first.

Funny-Cat-ReadingI was able to track down the origins of this award (well, one of the first nominees, at least).  To quote the creator of this award: “As bloggers, we are also readers. That is a part of blogging as listening is a part of speaking.”  This is a lesson I have learned during the past several months, particularly with the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April.  Blogging is what you put into it!  If you are looking for conversation and interaction, start by reading someone’s blog.  Blogging is very much a two-way street…writing and reading, reading and writing.  That’s where the interactions, conversations, and ultimately, the relationships are built.

The original rules of accepting this award are as follows:

  1. The Nominee of the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award shall display the logo on his/her post/page and/or sidebar.
  2. The Nominee shall nominate 14 readers they appreciate over a period of 7 days (1 week) – this can be done at any rate during the week. It can be ALL on one day or a few on one day and a few on another day, etc.
  3. The Nominee shall name his or her Wonderful Team Member Readership Award nominees on a post or on posts during the 7 day (1 week) period.
  4. The Nominee shall make these rules, or amended rules keeping to the spirit of the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award, known to each reader s/he nominates.
  5. The Nominee must finish this sentence and post: “A great reader is…”

My 14 Award Nominees* Are:

* I realize that not everyone does the blog award thing.  Some people look at awards like chain letters that are more work and obligation than anything else.  I am completely fine with that perspective, and understand it.  However, I really appreciate the sentiment behind these awards, and I think it’s a great way to share other blogs and bloggers with your readers.  Therefore, I’m nominating people that I feel deserve this award (whether you read my blog, and/or I read yours)…it is totally up to you whether or not you want to accept it and pass it on.  I won’t be insulted if you don’t want to accept the award…I just want to recognize you as an important part of my blogging community!  Also, I’ve previously nominated some of these people for the Liebster Award.  If this applies to you, tough!  I love you so much that I’ve nominated you again!  ❤

  1. Sammy D. at Bemuzin – sorry, Sammy – I’m gonna nominate you for this one for all the love you leave me on my blog!
  2. Ava Quinn at Tongue In Cheek – ha! My last sentence in the paragraph above applies to YOU!
  3. Misty from Dancing in the Weeds – you’re so amazing that you get another award!
  4. Michelle Stanley – always sharing other people’s posts, you’re a great team reader!
  5. Marie at Every Day is a Miracle – we met during the A to Z Challenge and your blog is fantastic!
  6. Roxy and Tigerlino from Purrfect Kitties – always clever, cute, and supportive!
  7. Laura Barbosa – I love her artwork, and she let me post one of her paintings here for Fine Art Felines Friday!
  8. Stephanie Bird at Stephanie’s Studio – I also met Stephanie through the A to Z Challenge and have been blessed by her visits!
  9. Jay from Running In My Head – who very kindly just nominated me for another award (working on it…)!
  10. Michele from Angels Bark – I just love this blog, and the passion with which Michele advocates for animals.
  11. Sheena from Not A Punk Rocker – I don’t know if she reads my blog, but I read hers. Love the 80’s references and honest writing!
  12. Laurel from Alphabet Salad – Reading this blog makes me happy.  I love her tangles – they are inspiring and creative!
  13. All the critters at Cascadian Nomads – Again, I don’t know if they know my blog exists, but I love reading about their travels with pets, and how you can safely do the same!
  14. Indywrites at Eloquent Articulation – I was mesmerized by her A to Z Challenge posts about women in India. Amazing.
  15. Tammy at Diary of a Middle-Aged Misfit – Again, a more serious A to Z Challenge topic (WWII), but incredible writing.

And finally, all I need to do is finish this sentence:

A great reader is…someone who not only loses herself in what she is reading, but also finds herself as well.  She relates something about herself to the words she consumes, and connects on a very personal level with the writer.  In the words of Marcel Proust:

Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.”

Writing 101: Lori The Llama Lady

Napoleon and me at the seniors' expoI met Lori at a seniors’ expo in downtown Vancouver.  I’m not sure what was more odd – me being at a seniors’ expo on a Saturday afternoon, or seeing Lori at her booth connected by a short lead to Napoleon, a cream-colored alpaca wearing a red hat and sparkly accessories gazing serenely at the seniors gathered around him.  I was at the expo volunteering for Columbia River Pet Partners, an organization that matches people and their pets (usually dogs) up with various programs that bring therapy animals to people in need – folks in retirement and rehab centers, kids in hospitals, reading programs in libraries, and similar groups.  Lori was at the expo promoting her non-profit organization, Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas.  I’m in the process of getting a couple of certificates, one in Animal Assisted Therapy (more about that in a future post), and had never heard of llamas or alpacas being used as therapy animals, so after chatting with her a bit, Lori invited me to come along with her to visit a rehabilitation center a few weeks later.

I took an afternoon off from work (hmmm…sitting at my computer, or playing with llamas?  Sitting at my computer, or playing with llamas?  It wasn’t a hard decision, honestly) and drove out to Lori’s home and small farm on a hot, dry day.  Lori met me at her door and immediately gave me a hug as she hurriedly went around back to finish preparing Rojo for our visit to the rehab center.  I followed her to a shed behind her house where Rojo, a 12 year old llama who even has his own Facebook page, waited patiently for Lori to finish grooming him.  Rojo towered over me, with a long furry neck and very fluffy legs, resembling a camel wearing pantaloons.  Lori explained to me that llamas and alpacas are more related to camels than anything else, which makes sense when you look at them.  Rojo didn’t seem to mind that I was there as Lori finished brushing his coat, making it soft, smooth and shiny.  He was so very calm and proud, and didn’t even seem to care that I was there.

I was wondering how we were going to get Rojo to the rehab center, when Lori opened the sliding door on a minivan behind the shed and Rojo jumped right in the back and sat down.  Well, ok!  I’d never ridden in a minivan with a llama before, but there’s a first for everything, I suppose.  On the way down, Lori carefully navigated the highway drive into Portland while chatting about her experience using llamas and alpacas as therapy animals.  She’s had Rojo since he was six months old, and has been using him as a therapy animal since he was four.  Her shoulder-length blond hair blew in the air-conditioned breeze from the minivan’s vents…it was hot in the car, and Rojo was probably warm underneath all that hair.  An extrovert, I can see why Lori makes a good facilitator for interactions with her animals and clients – she explained the ins and outs of her business with me, and was very candid about some of the challenges she’s had to overcome.  But she passionately explained that alpacas and llamas are great as therapy animals because the are so patient, calm, large and sturdy, and can take petting and touching from people who aren’t necessarily very coordinated due to age or physical ailments.  They generally aren’t shaken up by noises, activities around them, and are easily maneuverable around equipment and furniture.  I learned a lot from Lori during that car ride, and Rojo listened as well, patiently as ever.

I even got to lead Rojo into the rehab facility!

I even got to lead Rojo into the rehab facility!

During our visit to the rehabilitation center, Lori confidently steered Rojo to every single resident of the rehab center, which also seemed to be a nursing home for many older residents.  She engaged with each and every single person, asking questions, and even guiding hands over fur for those clients who couldn’t see or move to touch Rojo themselves.  I was the carrot girl, doling out short slices of carrots to everyone to feed to Rojo, who will never have a vitamin A deficiency, I’m sure.  Some of the

Even the staff looks forward to Rojo's visits.

Even the staff looks forward to Rojo’s visits.

residents were even brave enough to put a piece of carrot between their lips and get a kiss from Rojo!  I was enamored by the caring and gentle way that both Lori and Rojo interacted with each person.  Lori explained that for some of the residents, visits from her animals are sometimes the only visits they receive.  Lori is able to visit this particular center every month or two, but you can see the recognition and happiness that these visits bring.  It was almost magical, the effect that Lori and Rojo had on the people at the rehab center, including the staff, who spend their days caring for the people living there.

I was so fortunate to spend the afternoon with Lori and Rojo – Lori taught me a lot about the healing power of therapy animals, and was a great example of how to interact with this very special group of people who need all the love they can get.  It was an honor to observe their work, and I hope to get to do it again sometime soon…I’d even be willing to take another afternoon off of work!


This is Day 6 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to answer this question:  Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?  And the twist:  Turn your post into a character study.

I know I’m a little behind in the writing assignments, but I had to write about my experience with the therapy llama.  I realize that I chose to write about *both* Lori and Rojo, who are *both* very interesting, and I hope I gave you at least a small picture of who they are and what they do.  I’m so glad I got to meet both of these unique individuals!

 

Writing 101: Dashing Under the Night Sky (Part 1 of 3)

What I remember, when I was maybe four years old, is staring up at the night sky through the back window of my father’s hatchback.  We were on the road and it was dark, except for the billions of stars above me.  I could feel the tires of the car, a flesh-colored Volkswagen Dasher, on the highway, and it was so late at night, or maybe so early in the morning.  I was tired, but being lulled back to sleep by the movement of the car, the smell of the car’s dry heat coming from the plastic vents, and the soft glow of the lights in the dashboard.  My brother, a year and a half younger, was asleep next to me.  It is a brief memory, but one that I have held onto for some reason.

The events surrounding the memory are a little less clear.  I seem to recall my dad waking me up in the middle of the night – or was it early morning and still dark? – and telling me and my brother to get up, that we were going.  I can’t remember if the car was packed with our belongings.  Previous to that night, I don’t remember my dad packing our things, or telling us we were moving, although I’m sure he did and I was just too young to really know what it meant.  I don’t remember arriving at our destination, or if a moving truck was involved.  I didn’t know at the time why we were moving.

It was the first time though, that I remember knowing, really understanding, that my mother was not with us, would not be joining us along the way, and would not meet us there.  I didn’t know when my brother and I would see her again.  I worried that she wouldn’t know how to find us.  I worried that we would not see her again, or that perhaps we would be too old and that she wouldn’t recognize us.

And as those stars slipped across the night sky, as we dashed along the highway moving from our home in Wisconsin to our new home in Oklahoma, the distance between me and my mother seemed to grow greater and greater, until we became no closer than the nearest stars in the sky.

 

Photo by Frank Delargy

Photo by Frank Delargy

Related post:  Silence is never louder than when you should be asleep

 


 

This is Day 4 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to:  Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.  And the twist:  Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

I really struggled with this post in that I couldn’t think of what to write about, let alone how to incorporate it into a three-post trilogy.  I thought of all kinds of losses – people, pets, objects, games…but nothing really stood out, until I found this memory, lurking in the corner of my mind.  It wasn’t a permanent loss; today, my mother is very much a part of my life, I am happy to say.  I’m not quite sure how this will start my trilogy, but I’ll think of something, eventually!

Writing 101: The shortest story I have ever written.

Your letter was not

for my eyes, but still I cried –

Your intent, fulfilled.

Image from lupusinflight.com.

Image from lupusinflight.com.

 


This is Day 5 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to write about this:  You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.  And the twist:  Approach this post in as few words as possible.

The first thing I thought of when I read today’s assignment was “haiku”.  Boom.  Also, I’m still working on yesterday’s assignment…sit tight, it will happen.

Writing 101: My Three Songs

It is so very difficult to choose the three most important songs in my life.  Surely you’ve had the experience of hearing a song on the radio or on TV and it brings you right back to a time or moment that you can almost see again, and certainly feel?  As I ran through the collection of music I have, I got flashes of various times, just little peeks, skipping across my thoughts as I skipped through the song titles.  But I’ve narrowed it down.  I can’t say that these are THE three most important songs in my life, but they stand out to me for some reason (at least today).

To be honest, I wrote about a very important song to me on the first day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge back in April.  It is Anya Marina’s “Vertigo”, which reminds me so much of the year that Chris and I were dating.  2010 was a fantastic year, and at the end of it, Chris proposed to me to this song playing in the background.  You can read my post about it and listen to the song HERE.

But HA!  I’m going to pull a fast one on you!  Since I’ve already written about the most important song in my life I get to pick three entirely new ones for today!  I make the rules here, yes I do!  So here we go, in no particular order of importance:

First, there’s “Barcarolle“, by Jacques Offenbach from ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’.  You might not have expected an operatic piece from me, but this song almost brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.  It’s a prominent song in one of my very favorite moves, “Life is Beautiful”, about a family (mom, dad and young son) who are taken away to a Nazi concentration camp.  The father is able to hide the little boy even after they are separated from the mom.  His father makes their time at the concentration camp into a game for the boy, even as atrocious events take place around them.  At one point, the father is required to act as a servant for a fancy Nazi dinner and he finds a Victrola with a collection of records.  He is able to broadcast Barcarolle across the concentration camp, a sign to his wife that he is still alive and that his love for her will endure no matter what.  It’s such an amazing movie, and I can barely write about it without my eyes getting moist (ok, they are most.  Dammit!).  Below are two scenes from the movie (all in one youtube video); first is an earlier scene when the father first sees his future wife at the opera (when Barcarolle is being performed) and knows he is in love with her (and gets her to look at him!), and second, the scene I described above.

Next up on the jukebox in the Fuzzy Undertones Lounge, is a little something from Prince.  I love Prince, and have been a huge fan since I was fairly young.  While his musical style has changed throughout the years, there’s always something unique about his music that says Prince.  I thought about choosing “Kiss”, which I love, but then decided to take it one step further and go with “Sexy M.F.”  You figure out what the M.F. stands for.  While Prince has since sworn off swearing in his music (can you do that?) this is an earlier song and I love it because, like “Kiss”, it’s not about what you look like, it’s how you carry yourself, how your attitude makes you sexy.  Yeah.  And you know that I can be one sexy beast when I’m listening to Prince!

Lastly, I’ll go with a classic, a song that describes my daily life and could, in fact, be my theme song between the hours of 7:30 – 5.  If this were the case, however, the song would have to change its title, but I have a feeling that Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five” wouldn’t quite be the same if you substituted seven-thirty for nine.  It just doesn’t have the same ring to it, you know?  When I enter the doors at work first thing in the morning, this music runs through my mind.  I recently watched the movie “Nine to five” and it was still quite hilarious even though a lot of it is somewhat outdated.  But still, I feel like I sell myself during those prime hours of the day…it’s all taking and no giving (well, except for the paycheck.  That, I get).

I had some runner-ups, too.  If I could add a few more songs to the list I might have included Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” or George Clinton’s “Do Fries Go With That Shake”, or maybe even “If I Didn’t Have You” from the Monster’s Inc. soundtrack (bloopers included in that one!).  Oh, so many to choose from!  And so hard to pick only three!  But for today, there they are.  What are the three most important songs in your life?  Tell me in the comments!


This is Day 3 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to answer this question: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?  And the twist:  You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

Ha!  Well, for the twist, I’ve already decided that I will write 20 minutes a day, as I’ve been setting my timer to 20 minutes for each of these daily exercises.  Take that, Writing 101!  I’ll see your minimum and raise you 5 whole minutes!  And, as long as we’re establishing practices here, those 20 minutes are reserved for writing…going back to edit, add hyperlinks, insert pictures or videos, that’s all extra.  Not allowed in my 20 minutes!

Writing 101: A sense of place (or, as Liz Lemon says, I want to go to there)

I can feel the heat from the sun blazing down on me, and I know my surroundings feel it too.  The top of my head is burning, and my dark hair does nothing to reflect the heat, but only absorbs the constant rays, unobstructed by clouds or rain, at least in this season.  There is a breeze, which I welcome on my skin; it is cool when it rushes across the thin sheen of sweat on my face and arms.  It is a welcome cool.  The breeze brings me dust from the road I am standing on, a dirt road, cracked under the sun with layers of clay crumbling up towards the atmosphere as particles are swept into the air.  They tickle my nose and I sneeze.  I can smell the earth, but I can also smell and almost taste the grasses – it is the sweet scent of dried grasses, uncut, waving in the wind.  I can hear the grasses brushing together as they sway in waves with each breath of air that chases the next across the savannah.  With that wave I hear more sounds.

There are birds chirping in the distance.  Perhaps a loud squawk of a corvid defending its food from another large bird, or the song-like chirps of smaller birds hidden in the leaves of a grove of nearby acacia trees.  I can also hear other animals, larger animals, many animals.  Herds of them, grazing slowly under the heat that surely affects them as much as it affects me.  Their dainty hooves trample the crisp dried grasses that brush up against long legs that slowly move from one patch of grass to another.  Their hooves also make a dull thud on the dusty earth where there is no vegetation, where they are crossing the road in which I stand.  Their mouths make a slow grumble as they tear plants from the ground or leaves from the trees, masticating the tough fibrous materials between their grinding teeth, lazily, up and down, back and forth, before they swallow.  I can smell the salty-sweet excrement they leave behind, that is already drying into chips under the sun.  Insects scurry towards them, clicking their wings and legs as they go, humming as they fly towards their destination.

More intermittently, I hear other noises, those of animals I must be wary of.  Animals that I have come to meet, to encounter from a distance.  At this time of day they sleep in the shade, unless disturbed by their young who play and climb and tug on their fur demanding attention.  I hear the chirpy mews of the cubs, and every once in a while a rumbling growl from one of the adults followed by a quick scamper of paws in the grass as a cub runs from the scene.  I would like a nap too, in the shade.  I can hear tails slapping flies away from backsides covered with fur, paws scratching at something itching underneath a heavy mane.  In the distance, the far away distance, I hear a trumpet-like calling…and another one answering…a family, checking in and letting each other know where they are.

Do you know where I am? What do I see?  Can you see it too?


This is Day 2 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to answer this question: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?  And the twist:  organize your post around the description of a setting.

I really want to go to Africa to see all those fascinating creatures of the plains.  I’m especially interested in the cats, but all of the animals there call to me.  Africa is at the top of my bucket list, and I can’t wait to start planning that adventure when I am able to go!  I wanted to write a description of the place without using the sense of sight, just information that I could get from touch, sound, smell, and taste (to a lesser extent).  Did you feel it?  Could you see what I was describing?  Let me know how I did in the comments below, and tell me where you would go if you could drop everything and zoom off right now!

Savannah, from Simon at www.GoodFon.su

Savannah, from Simon at http://www.GoodFon.su

 

Writing 101: Keyboard Diarrhea turns into Discourse about Social Media Needs of Pirates

Today is June 2, 2014.  This is the first day of WordPress Blogging University’s Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit.  The course has daily assignments every weekday in the month of June, and I have decided to take part in this course / challenge / masochistic experiment, since I haven’t had a whole lot going on since the A to Z Blogging Challenge concluded at the end of April.  Today’s assignment for Day 1:  free-write a stream of consciousness for 20 minutes.  And of course, every assignment also comes with a twist: today’s is to actually publish the results of the 20 minutes of free-writing (lucky you!!!).

So, here is today’s keyboard diarrhea.  I generally feel like blogging can be a very narcissistic activity (as I’ve said before), and I worry about turning readers off with an “all about me” attitude.  But, I guess you’re here for a reason (or not here, in which case you’re not reading this so I don’t even need to worry about it), and I’m going to assume that you’re being entertained on some level.  But is it my purpose in writing here to entertain you?  Well, I guess it is!  At least partially, I think.  Crap. 14:18 to go.

I’m writing during my lunch break today, which is something I try not to do, because I can get wrapped up in the details and minutia of writing a perfect post that is perfectly formatted with perfectly appropriate pictures.  But today, since I’m limited to 20 minutes (now 13:12), I feel like I really can take advantage of my lunch break.

This is what I look like today.

This is what I look like today.

And speaking of work, this morning someone that I encountered laughed as we were passing and asked me if I am a pirate today.  Well, of course I am!  My answer:  yep, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.  But I was thinking about it – was the question based solely on the fact that I’m wearing a bandana on my head today?  It’s not like I’m wearing an eye patch (although that would really help to solidify the pirate look).  I am, however, constantly muttering “argh” under my breath and attempting to pillage the office supply room.  So maybe the question was based more on the general vibe I’m giving off?  I don’t know.  At one point, I took a quiz that revealed my pirate name as “Iron Mary Flint”, which I rather enjoyed and altered to “Iron Marci Flint”.  And, I do respect “Talk Like a Pirate Day“, although I really suck at talking like a pirate, aside from the aforementioned much-practiced “argh” phrase.  And, living in the Portland area suits me, I suppose, because they are very pro-pirate here, even having a Pirate Festival once a year on the muddy banks of the Willamette River (although I just saw that it’s not happening this year…whaaaa???).  I don’t have a parrot, but my mom has a severe macaw…does that count?  Shit, I really don’t think I’d make a very good pirate after all, but it is a tempting career choice should I decide to switch things up in a few years (I have to get my grad school debt paid off first, though).

How much can a girl type in 20 minutes?  That depends.  I type pretty fast, up to 80 words per minute when I’m really moving along.  I’m pretty accurate, too.  Not sure that’s a skill that would really be needed on a pirate ship, but perhaps in these modern times it could be an asset?  I’m pretty good at the social media thing, too.  Like maybe my band of pirates could have their own Facebook page and Twitter account I could manage.  The job interview would go something like this:

First Mate Pirate In Charge Of Hiring (that’s his title): “So, you call yourself Iron Marci, and you’re applying for the social media manager pirate position?”

Me: “Aye, that be correct, mate.”  (See, I really suck at the pirate talk thing, but I bet I could get better if immersed in a pirate environment.)

First Mate Pirate In Charge Of Hiring: “Ok, well, in 140 characters or less, tell me why you would be the best bilge-rat for the job, or else you’re going to take a long walk off this here short plank.”

Me: “What do you do with a #DrunkenSailor? Find out as I #SetSail on the #LadySpank with @CapnTooth’s crew and 14 #BarrelsOfRum #PegLegsAreHot

First Mate Pirate In Charge Of Hiring: “Yer hired, missy!  Now go swab the deck, and make sure you Instagram that shit!”

Time’s up – see you tomorrow! (And yes, I cheated a little bit, going back after my 20 minutes were up to add links and the picture.  Sorry.)