All Creatures Great and Small: The Power of Pets

I missed National Pet Day on April 11 by a few weeks. But if you own a dog like Scotty or a kitty cat named Sophie, every day of the year is pet day.

In 4th grade, I drew a cat and colored it charcoal gray. It appears I was as interested in making the wallpaper pretty as I was in drawing a green-eyed cat with its wee kitten.

KittenArtMarian1947?

In first grade, my teacher Miss Longenecker introduced our class to reading via the phonics method with the drawing of a cat illustrating the hard “c” sound. She probably used the Hay & Wingo textbook entitled Reading with Phonics (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1948).

 Hay & Wingo, Reading with Phonics, J. B. Lippincott, 1948
Julie Hay & Charles Wingo, Reading with Phonics, J. B. Lippincott, 1948

We never had a pet cat, probably because my mother was allergic to cat dander, but several memorable dogs cavorted through our childhood. Sporty, an Airedale Terrier mix leaped and frisked around Grandma’s ankles when I was very young.  Boots, a black and white Smooth Fox Terrier, flushed ground hogs from their holes.

My sister Jean remembers other animals too: Our dad raised Angora rabbits housed in wooden crates in the barn attic and another Smooth Fox Terrier named Minnie, as small as she sounds. Sister Jan says we used to dress her up with doll clothes and send her down over the hill to Grandma’s house.

Our brother Mark’s dog, 3-legged Skippy, butterscotch and cream colored, lost one leg when a truck ran over him. Still, he skipped, ran far, and jumped high with just three legs. You’ll see part of his rear end and his tail in the second picture.

MarkDogMailbox

 

Brother Mark with sled and Skippy in the snow 1961
Brother Mark with sled and Skippy in the snow  1961

 

We all remember Ruthie’s little lamb that felt like mine when I wiggled my fingers digging deep into its wooly coat.

My Aunt Ruthie loved animals all her life, especially dogs. Her last four dogs were Schnauzers, known for their fierce loyalty and protective power. The pure-bred Schnauzuers were all named Fritzie – Fritizie I, II, III, and IV.

In this photo she was probably holding Fritzie III in her lap. The devotion you observe in this photo flowed both ways.

RuthieDogPiano

* * *

Like most children, our kids Crista and Joel wanted a dog. We shopped ads in the Dollar Saver for our dog back then and were taken in by the phrase “loves children.” That’s how we found Me-Too, a kid-loving-mailman-hating dog of questionable pedigree. Still, the children doted on her and adopted her into their play. Here the frame of their baby buggy became a carriage with Me-Too as the pony express.

WondaChairCristaJoel

 

Research

Not surprisingly, research shows that pets promote health, both physical and emotional.

Pets in the household can reduce everyday stress – lift one’s mood and provide physical contact. They provide an outlet for nurturing too: Pet owners have a living thing to care for. And finally, pets keep one active: walking the dog, feeding the cat.

Several of my writing friends admit that a pet dog or cat serves as muse: Kathy Pooler, Merril Smith, and Susan Weidener. Other authors have pets that appear on their blog posts from time to time: Laurie Buchanan, Janet Givens, and Elaine Mansfield. Lord David Prosser observes that his alarm cat Oscar wakens him from slumber every morning. And photographer Lady Fiona’s dogs enliven most of her fabulous photographs. Marylin Warner is training a puppy, but I don’t think she would call Scout her muse yet.

* See note below.

 

Books with animal characters

Books of my childhood:

  • Anne of Green Gables – Dog Monday
  • Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls’ dogs – Jack, the brindle bulldog, and Bandit, the stray, appear in her books
  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

Literary works:

In The Odyssey, I recall Homer’s beloved Argos, who patiently waited for him at journey’s end. Maybe you remember this faithful dog too.

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, cats romped in the Bennett household, at least according to author Pamela Jane.

Anton Chekhov wrote a short story entitled The Lady with the Dog, preserved here in statuary forever viewing the Black Sea in Yalta. When we visited in 2011, Crimea was still part of Ukraine.

CrimeaMarian2011

 

In the 1970s James Herriot books were all the rage both here in the States and internationally. Herriot, an English veterinarian, immortalized farm animals, pets, and their owners in his popular series set in the Yorkshire dales and moors. I read many of the titles: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and The Lord God Made Them All.

 

What pets populated your home or the pages of books you loved? What items can you add to the list of benefits of owning a pet?

Leave a line or two here. You can also include endearing (or not) pet anecdotes.

Incidentally, if I inadvertently missed listing you as an author with a pet muse, please bark at me, so I can rectify the oversight ~ pronto.

 

Daisy with Jenna in pigtails
Daisy with grand-daughter Jenna in pigtails

 

Coming next: Baby Beads and Wooden Blocks: Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

 

 

 

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Signs and Wonders: Chincoteague Island

Once upon a time, there were five memoirists who met online through their writing websites. One of them, Janet Givens, who had a rustic log house on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, invited four blogging friends to join her for a writers’ retreat: Kathy Pooler, Joan Rough, Shirley Showalter and me.

According to Janet, “It was grand.” At the end of the week, we all agreed. Now, you ask, what made the week so special?

First of all, the spacious log house was charming: LogHouseChico.VA

And there is an enclosed porch where we ate breakfast overlooking a canal and the shimmering Oyster Bay facing east.

ChairsLogPorch

All around the house were clever or catty sayings on wooden plaques: GrumpySignSmokingFireSmokingMan

No one was voted off the Island. We all stayed!
No one was voted off the Island. We all stayed.

That’s right:  Everyone behaved!

As we began, we did have a plan to include the clichéd 3 F’s and a W: food, fun, fellowship – and writing, of course. In a joint effort, Shirley recorded on paper how our days might unfold.

ScheduleSHS

Every day, we enjoyed breakfast together, one day with French toast oven-baked by our host Janet with Joan beaming her blessing:  FrenchBread

Then we had writing time and do-it-yourself lunches with afternoons for more writing or walks.

Some days it was cold!   MarianKathyJoan

One fairly warm day, we all took a hike into the Assateague Preserve to see the world-renowned ponies, made famous by Marguerite Henry’s Misty Books. According to one friend’s pedometer, we logged about 3 miles walking the beach and side trails.

And we enjoyed the exhibit at the Visitors’ Center:PonySignExhibit

Other Days, we wandered along the main road in Chincoteague. As we explored, we found some interesting sights.PianoWrapped

And a mailbox replicating the house of the owner in the distance:

Mailbox replica of house behind
Mailbox replica of house behind

Every evening, we had healthy meals: Chicken chili, frittata, stuffed sweet potatoes, pasta fagioli. This night, Joan is helping Shirley serve broccoli soup with Waldorf salad.     KitchenCooks

After dinner from Tuesday – Saturday, we gathered on the comfy sofa and chairs close to the wood stove. From 7 – 9:30 one of us had the spotlight with an opportunity to get feedback on our writing or blogging. As a beginning memoirist, on Tuesday night, I got clarity about the focus for my story. Distributing a preliminary outline, I asked, “Where in all this muddle is my true story?” Happily, I got wise words from three women who’ve already published memoirs (Kathy, Janet, and Shirley) and one (Joan) with a book poised for publication.

MeComputer

After struggling through revisions, my room-mate Kathy, gestures her approval of my story blurb and synopsis:

ThumbsUpKathy

On Sunday, our last full day together, we joined Janet at the Sundial Book store for her author talk/book signing.

SundialBooksChincoVA

JanetBookSign

Afterwards we bought books and other gifts for our loved ones. Leaving the store, we spotted the theatre marquee across the street . . .

IslandTheatreMarquee

. . . and behind the store, outsized LOVE chairs by the bridge. (Think Lily Tomlin dwarfed in a big chair here.)

LOVEchiars

Finally, we gathered again to celebrate the productive week and our deepened friendships as we watched back-to-back episodes of Downton Abbey. As the week ended, we all wrote off into the sunset.

*  *  *

Our story, like Downton Abbey, proceeded in chronological time but with some flashbacks, like many good stories.

My version of The Week at Chincoteague is based on a variation of the story model by PIXAR, the moviemaker who tells perfect stories like Toy Story I and II. Since 1995, their storytelling wisdom has spawned many a tall/true tale. Yes, Shirley shared this link with me last week, which I pass on as a template for your own story. Here is the PIXAR prompt page.

AuthorLifeStory

My husband Cliff designed the cover for our photo albums of the week:

Alternate Title:  Cinco Chinco Chiques
Alternate Title: Cinco Chinco Chiques

 

In today’s post title, I promised you a Wonder, and here it is: 

Standing:  Janet Givens, Kathy Pooler, Marian Beaman    Seated: Shirley Showalter, Joan Rough
Standing: Janet Givens, Kathy Pooler, Marian Beaman
Seated: Shirley Showalter, Joan Rough

 Five writers, none of whom had met all the others, retreat to a magical island for a WONDERful time, honing their writing skills and deepening friendships.


Click HERE for more information on how to reserve Janet’s log house for a writers’ retreat or your own family vacation!

WhenGetThere

 

We love words! Share some of your thoughts here . . .  

 

Coming next: Purple Passages and a Weather Forecast

Accepting the Red Heart: One Lovely Blog Award

Remember getting a gold or silver star on your homework papers in grade school? Well, writers who read each other’s blog posts do something similar – they nominate those they admire for the One Lovely Blog Award. It’s not a gold star. It’s a red heart and looks like this:

OneLovelyBlog Award

In October, two admirable authors nominated me. Thank you to authors Kathy Pooler and Mary Gottschalk. In November, notable writer Joan Rough nominated me, so it is high time to acknowledge this honor and pass on the baton. I consider all three of these writers my mentor/encouragers.

The Rules:

Name and thank those who nominated you.

Share 7 things about yourself that others may not know.

Nominate 15 bloggers (or as many as you like) to whom you would like to pass on the nomination.

7 Little-Known Facts about Me:

  1. I don’t wear false teeth.
  2. My hair was not cut until I was 26 years old.
  3. I’m still married to my first blind date.
  4. My first engagement ring was flushed down the commode by our 3-year-old daughter. She doesn’t remember. I forgave. She was only three.
  5. One summer after college I traveled to 47 states with a friend from college. I had no idea then that my husband-to-be was living in the Pacific Northwest.
  6. One winter a snowboarder hit me while skiing. I became a pretzel, untwisted myself, and stood up again, wobbly but unharmed. I thank God and Mr. Pilates.
  7. First time in over 30 years I haven’t washed the windows in my house. (They didn’t crack or hit me with blinding light.)

My nominees come from South Africa, Australia, and all over the United States. Two are men, who I hope are not too shy to accept an award with a red heart in it. Note: I did not nominate those whom others have named.

These nominees may choose to participate or not. Also, there is no pressure to respond immediately. Remember, it’s taken me more than a month! Just know that I admire your writing and want to honor you in this way:

My Nominations (in random order):

Gwendolyn Plano   http://www.gwenplano.com/

Susan Scott    http://www.gardenofedenblog.com/ 

Patti   https://everypagewhispershisname.wordpress.com/

Diane Reed   http://dianereedwiter.wordpress.com

Judy Berman    http://earth-rider.com/

Steve Piscitelli  http://stevepiscitelli.wordpress.com/

Debby Gies   http://dgkayewriter.com

Jennifer Simpson  http://jennsmidlifecrisis.wordpress.com/

J. T. Weaver   http://jtweaverblog.wordpress.com/

Alexa   http://www.alexa-asimplelife.com/

What blogger not on the list would you like to recognize? Tell us please.

Coming next: The 200th Post Mark with Julie and Julia

Dancing to a Different Tune: Kathy Pooler’s Memoir

Kathy and I are not old friends. In fact, our friendship is rather recent as we have explored each other’s blog posts early this year, discovering that we both were developing our writing skills after long, satisfying careers, hers in medicine and mine in education.

KathyPoolerBrighter

In March, she featured me on a blog post describing my writing process and in May I published a preview of her memoir now published in July 2014. Beyond this, we have discovered that our values are rooted in a strong Christian faith.

Kathy Pooler’s memoir Ever Faithful to His Lead is a smooth read but with a tale that is often tumultuous. Her memoir unfolds like a novel with pleasing dialogue and silky descriptions of her prom dress and her hand-made wedding gown in stark contrast to the rocky road she travels to become a strong, assertive woman.

In the course of her journey, Kathy earns several academic degrees among them the distinguished Certified Family Nurse Practitioner qualification. Yet she stumbles with poor choices in love, choosing one wrong partner after another in her search for a stable marriage like that she imagined her parents’ to be. In fact, she admits early on that she can trace her “inability to discern dangerous situations to a lack of exposure to anything out of the ordinary.”

Readers can applaud the resilient woman emerging from the frightened person who hid from her first husband in her hallway closet to a woman who is finally able to trust her own instincts. Her candor and vulnerability appear on every page. Kathy often pulls the reader aside to contemplate her motivation, as for example: “I was always second-guessing myself, quickly shoving doubts aside to paint the picture of what I needed the world to be.”

When you as reader want to snatch the blinders off the writer’s eyes and yell “Stop!” into her ears, you know the author has succeeded in pulling you into her world. This memoir is a cautionary tale for anyone on an elusive search for Mr. Right. For anyone already in an abusive relationship, Kathy’s story offers courage and hope. Admitting it is time to make big-girl choices, her last chapter promises, “Raw, hopeful, ready to dance to my own song—my new faith waiting patiently in the background.”

The book concludes with nine discussion questions for book clubs and a “Share the Hope” section with the notation that each purchase contributes toward the National Coalition of Domestic Violence Awareness Association. Author Pooler is already at work on a sequel: Hope Matters.

EverFaithfulCover

You can buy Kathy Pooler’s book at Goodreads and Amazon.

Kathy’s blog

Facebook page

Twitter page

 

Coming next: My Mother’s Recitations

Face to Face Encounters: The Very Best Kind

Author Kathy Pooler invites her readers to gather “around her kitchen table” for weekly discussions on her blog post. Readers of Laurie Buchanan’s blog know she usually posts on “Tuesdays with Laurie.” Most bloggers publish posts on specific days of the week which their subscribers have come to anticipate. It is a call for intimacy among kindred spirits in the often impersonal environment of cyberspace.

Yes, there are helpful forums available online that attempt to add sight and sound to the interaction. For example, author/writing coach Sonia Marsh and writing organizations like NAMW (National Association of Memoir Writers) frequently schedule Google Hangouts and tele-seminars that combine live voice and Skype-inspired imagery, adding another layer of intimacy to enhance the exchange of ideas.

Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterist all allow postings of photos with text. Facebook often seems like a picnic with “likes” for yes’s, and sometimes offers back and forth conversation like a game of ping-pong. And I think of Twitter as a kind of hors d’oeuvre party with guests flitting like bees from one cluster of flowers to another, sipping nectar here and there.

Flickr Image
Flickr Image

Yet it’s true. Without the internet, I would never have even met writers whose friendships have been cultivated from countries all over this planet– Australia, Canada, Sweden, South Africa, or the Philippines. And unfortunately the chances of meeting these fine folks for coffee or tea any time soon seems pretty remote. When possible though, face to face encounters add a three-dimensional quality that is hard to duplicate online.

This past October, I was invited to share breakfast with Shirley Showalter, famous for her memoir BLUSH, in her home overlooking the Shenandoah Valley near Harrisonburg, VA during Homecoming at EMU.

SHSandME

This past Saturday in June I met blogger Traci Carver, teacher and writer extraordinaire, as she breezed through Jacksonville on her way further south, meeting for lunch at Cozy Tea in the Riverside area of Jacksonville. Though a generation apart, we found common ground discussing teaching English, Downton Abbey, European travels, our families, other shared interests. Her award-winning blog claims she is from the cotton pickin’ South, yet she has an international world view having lived in Southeast Asia for several years. A story-teller extraordinaire, she spin tales from the cotton of everyday life into pure gold.

TraciMarianCozyTea2

In each case, the encounter was only an hour or two in length, but a level of intimacy develops in face to face encounters that online encounters are hard-pressed to duplicate. Obviously, non-verbal cues and nuances of personality and facial expression are often masked by the limitations of tiny pixels on posts.

Despite claims by science fiction writers, the phenomenon of transmogrification seems a long way off, probably a good thing! Thus, many writers find writing conferences in glamorous cities a great way to meet, greet, and even bond over coffee or lunch.

In the meantime, we can hope for serendipitous encounters along the way with our fans and fellow writers. I know I do!

*  *  *

Have you had a face-to-face encounter with someone you have known only through the internet?

Someone whom you’ve known for a long time, but haven’t seen again until recently? Any other special encounter?

CozyTeaSign

 

Kathy Pooler and Independence Day: Her Story of Freedom

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This July, my friend and author Kathy Pooler will be celebrating Independence Day in a big way launching her memoir in early July. The book’s title Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse hints at the road Kathy has traveled from victim to victor with faith as her guiding light. Her story speaks of the liberation she experienced as her renewed faith enabled her to cope with multiple family upheavals including a spouse’s alcoholism, domestic abuse, two divorces, and her own struggle with cancer and heart disease.

Faith is walking to the edge of all the light and taking one more step.     Author Unknown

 

Kathy’s Story:

As a “cradle Catholic,” I was born into and brought up with all the traditions and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic faith. I have, by conscious choice and deepening desire, remained true to these beliefs and teachings, except for a period in my twenties when I questioned and even rejected them.

As is often the case, my faith did not deepen until I had to face several life-altering challenges. It was then that my religion became my faith and my spirituality, the source of comfort and meaning in my life. Therein lies the heart of my upcoming memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse.

One of the threads in my story is the role my faith played in getting into and out of two emotionally abusive marriages.

I asked myself as I wrote my memoir “How does a young woman from a stable, loving Catholic family make so many wise choices about her career but so many poor choices about love that she ends up escaping with her two children in broad daylight from her second husband for fear of physical abuse?”

The truth was this: A loving family, a solid career and a strong faith could not rescue me until I decided to rescue myself. 

So what does faith have to do with all of this?

  • Faith has been a way to nurture my own soul. I know spirituality is a very personal issue, but I do want to say that finding meaning in our lives is very important. It does not have to but this search for meaning can involve religious traditions. As mentioned, I am a Roman Catholic and find great meaning in praying and observing many rituals of my church including Holy Communion. Some other ways I nurture my soul is through Al-Anon, family friends, and following my passions of writing, exercise, reading, playing the piano. The main point is that we each need to find what works for us just as we respect each others’ right to do the same.
  • Honor yourself:  When I learned to sit still long enough, I found what I wanted and needed and then learned to honor myself and my needs. I was able to  carve out my own time and space to “follow my bliss.”
  • Hope matters: And perhaps the most important for me: Never, ever give up hope.

Excerpt from her book:

Tuesday was Ed’s bowling night. As my belly began to swell in my third trimester, my weekly vigil became more difficult. I sat by the bay window wondering when he’d return home and what condition he’d be in after his night of drinking.

My slow rhythmic breaths echoed through the quiet darkness and steadied the anxiety bubbling up from the pit of my stomach, colliding with my view of what I wanted and needed. My thoughts drifted to my great-grandmother. The visions of that tiny woman with her unwavering faith came to me in whispers and glimpses throughout my entire life.

Great-Grandma Ranze, Mom’s grandmother, had been pregnant with her ninth child when her husband died at the age of thirty-three. Surely I could get through this. The memory of watching Grandma Ranze praying the rosary when I was eight years old warmed me as I sat by the bay window on that cold night. I grabbed my rosary beads and started praying. It made me feel close to her.

* * *

This was one of many times in my life when my faith in God bolstered my hope and gave me strength for the battle. Faith is a gift given to me and nurtured in my childhood by Great-Grandma Ranze. She planted the seeds of faith in me as I faced my own challenges. She is still with me when I say my daily prayers.

Kathy’s Faith and Her Career:

My faith in God also guided me throughout my entire career as a nurse and nurse practitioner.

Every morning on my way to work, I prayed that I would remain open to being God’s servant in caring for the ill or in carrying out whatever role I happened to be in at the time—clinician, educator, administrator. I often prayed with or over patients with their permission. I said many silent prayers for those who were not comfortable.

I also prayed for the strength to deal with whatever I had to face—a dying patient, a difficult family/coworker/physician. Jesus is the Divine healer and if Jesus is in me then I am the vehicle for carrying out His will.

This is the faith that enabled me to walk away from two emotionally abusive marriages with two children. It has been through these challenges that my faith has deepened, and I have found freedom from emotional abuse.

Kathy asks: How about you? How has faith worked in your own life?

KathyPoolerBrighter

Kathleen Pooler is a writer and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner who is publishing on a memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse and working on a sequel, Hope Matters: A Memoir about how the power of hope through her faith in God has helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments:  domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.

She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: http://krpooler.com

Kathy’s Links:

Twitter

LinkedIn

Google+ 

Goodreads   

Facebook  

Pinterest

One of her stories “The Stone on the Shore” is published in the anthology: “The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment” by Pat LaPointe, 2012.

Another story: “Choices and Chances” is published in the  “My Gutsy Story Anthology” by Sonia Marsh, September 2013.

*  *  *

Can you relate to any part of Kathy’s story?

What questions do you have for Kathy?

Both she and I will join in the conversation today. You can bet on it!

pubslush-sig-logo200-2

The  30-day Pubslush Crowdfunding Campaign for my memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse was launched on May 12 and ends at midnight on June 11.

By making a contribution you will help spread the messages of hope, resilience and courage to those seeking freedom from abuse. Here’s the link to the campaign:

http://pubslush.com/books/id/2076.

If you are unable to make a contribution, I’d be most appreciative if you would share this link with others. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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