Book Bridges: When Moms Get Dewy-Eyed & Sparkly

It looked like this here yesterday. And like:

So Mom and I decided a soggy Saturday’s a good day to clean out the attic. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Now, you may not know this about me. But I’m a Great Attic Clean-Up Supervisor. I found a comfy rug. Laid down. Watched Mom cart stuff up and down the stairs. Dust. Categorize. Box. Un-box. Re-box.

Supervisin’s a tough job. But somebody’s gotta do it.

Anyway, Mom opened this one box. And sat down. “Oh my!” says she. “Kimmi, look at this!”

What? Did you unearth new doggie treats? A secret stash of gourmet dog food? The neighbor’s cat?

Lemme tell ya. I rolled over and I listened up right quick! Especially since she had The Look. The one Moms get when they’re remembering. All dewy-eyed and nostalgic. Looking all sparkly.

What kind of buried treasure did we just unearth?

Mom starts pulling books out of the box. Title after title. From when my brothers were little. Like:

And:

Some more:

“Does this ever take me back,” murmurs Mom. Twenty years of homeschooling. Preschool storytime at the library every Friday. Summer reading programs. Weekly trips to the library. Reading forts.

Mom was doing that sparkly, shimmery thing again. Maybe because my bros are all grown up now. But Mom says they used to spend hours reading aloud together every day. When my four bros were little. I don’t know why. But if remembering makes her do that dewy-sparkly-shimmery thing, it must be good.

Later, my 19 y.o big bro was looking at some of the books. He pulled one out. “I remember this!” he crows. “I got this for my birthday!” (A milk bone? Naw. Some other treasure.) Here it is:

 

Josiah was four years old. My bro is one amazing dude, eh?

Then Mom said something about good books. How they never get old.

“You never outgrow a good story” says she. “A good book lives forever. Is always waiting for you to come back. Pick up where you left off. A good book can create a lifetime of shared memories. Build bridges linking the past, present, and future. Diving into a book that’s an old favorite? It feels like coming home.”

Who’d a hunk one soggy Saturday could turn out to be so sparkly?

Ya gonna eat that? (Askin’ for a friend.)

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‘Beyond Bob’: Why I’m Doing Christmas Music in August

Ever been ripped off by someone you trusted? Remember how it felt? How do you respond? What’s next?

I ran into that recently when working on a Friend-Of-A-Friend project. It’s a long story. I’ll spare you the gory details. Nutshell version: the project/client came highly recommended from long-time mutual friends. Let’s call him “Bob.”

FOAF Bob heard I was a freelance writer via mutual friends. “Would you be interested in writing my memoirs?” asked Bob.  “Depends,” I said. “What do you have in mind?” He outlined some ideas, possibilities. I said I’d take a look.

Bob has, shall we say, quite a story. I agreed to take on the project, noting that I might consider offering Bob the FOAF discount off my writing services. But “I don’t work for free” I wrote. As in, I expect to get paid. Kinda like most people who work.

Thought we had that settled. In writing.

Bob lives in another state. So conversations were by email or phone. Following some requisite preliminaries, I dove into the project with both feet. Interviewing. Researching. Basic legwork. Writing. Editing. A few months later, Draft I was born. I emailed the new arrival to Bob. After some corrections and updates, Draft II was en route via cyberspace stork shortly thereafter.

At this point I’d spent about six months on the project. Hadn’t yet seen a dime for my time and effort. So I contacted Bob by email, saying that X amount was due before proceeding to Draft III.

Long story short:

Continue reading

Libraries and The ‘Dog Days’ of Summer

What do humans mean when they say ‘dog days of summer’? That I can better hang my nose out the car window on warmish days? That it’s too hot to do anything except lie in the shade and dream about kibble and surfing? Something related to Sirius, the ‘dog star’?

‘Dog star,’ huh? I kinda like the sound of that.

Wait. Kid on a bicycle going by.

Now. Where was I? Oh, yeah ‘Dog days.’ We’ve had several this summer. Temperatures ticked up to the mid and upper nineties. That may not sound like much to you Phoenix or Las Vegas types. But in  western Washington, that’s as rare as a smart cat. It’s so rare in fact, that most houses don’t have air conditioning. Pontoons, maybe. But not A/C.

Thankfully, the library does. Have A/C, that is.  So Mom went there a lot, especially during the ‘dog days of summer.’ I’m not crazy about the place. Only service animals are allowed inside. So whenever we walked there – the book place is about 10 minutes away by paw – I’d have to sit outside with one of my brothers or…

Is that the neighbor’s cat?

… or they’d take me for a walk while Mom scooped up some new books. I don’t know why she has to take so long.

Anyway, here’s what I learned about libraries during the ‘dog days of summer’:

  •  The front lawn has lots of nice shade.
  • People say ‘hi’ to me when they go in or out. I cannot jump on them. Cannot, cannot, canno… ugh!
  • The library manager, Mary, has a Cairn Terrier. His name is Max.
  • Libraries have ‘computers’ inside that my humans can use for free.
  • It’s okay to talk in the library. Just don’t bark.
  • Writers are readers.
  • ‘Stacks’ mean ‘books.’ Books are things some humans love. They say they can’t live without them. That reading is like breathing. Like eating. I don’t quite understand this.
  • Some people don’t do this reading thing enough. If they did, they would be better people, says Mom. Smarter. More well-rounded. Creative and thoughtful. They’d probably throw a Frisbee better, too.

I may like libraries after all. Even during the ‘dog days of summer.’

How I Was Struck By a Random Act of Kindness

Her Mom-ness says kindness can be hard to find these days. Elusive. Rare. So when you find it – or it finds you – be thankful. And reciprocate.

I’m not sure what that means. But it makes Mom smile. So it must be good. Like the other day.

We were out for a looong walk. Miles from home, her Mom-ness and I met up with another dog in a school playground. We played chase the ball for a while. Then the other dog went home with her Mom.

After the last ball toss, I came back limping. Mom noticed. We were a long way from my nice, soft doggie bed. Our water was almost gone. I could barely walk. How were we going to get home?

Mom tried to carry me.  She managed about 12 steps before buckling under my 65 pounds.

We were tired. We were thirsty. I was hurt.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

“We could sure use a random act of kindness right now,” Mom said, nursing sore arms.

I’m not sure what that means either. Something about being friendly. Generous. Considerate. And nice. Just because you can. With no strings attached.

Kind of like the way I am every day.

Anyway, Mom gets out her phone thingy. Starts dialing. Every person she called trying to get us a ride home was either at work or across the state line.

Phooey.

Mom finally managed to get ahold of my big bro, Sam. He’s 22. He “just happened” to be off work that day. He was out at the beach with his girlfriend. Over an hour away.

Know what? They dropped everything. Raced to the car. Whizzed over to the school. Brought water. Picked us up. Drove us home.

Just because we asked.

How cool is that?

Turns out my peds were a bit sunburnt from the heat radiating off the school yard blacktop. I’m fine now. Back to my  adorable self. Whizzing around the place at my usual 90 mph. Trying to be kind to everyone. Like my big bro Sam. I’m also trying to get the hang of kind-ing the mail carrier. (That takes extra practice. Nobody’s perfect.)

Speaking of kindness, here are some of Her Mom-ness’s favorite books or stories on the subject.

If you’re looking for the word “kindness” in the title, keep looking. These books are more subtle than that. They feature stories and/or characters who demonstrate generosity. Courage. Compassion. Grace. Kindness. If you know any of these, you’ll understand:

What would you add?

Meanwhile, I’m liking this random act of kindness thing. It’s kind of contagious. Unless it hits a cat. Then all bets are off.

Anyway, how ’bout you? Have you been struck by a random act of kindness this week? Or have you been the giver of a random act of kindness? Tell us about it. We love hearing from our peeps!

 

 

 

No, You Don’t Need to Blog EVERY Day – Here’s Why

Six words that strike terror into the heart of bloggers:

Please share your latest blog post.

This according to Her Mom-ness. Me? I’m cool with a daily walk and “dinner” twel… I mean twice a day. But you know how moms are. For as long as I can remember – both minutes – Her Mom-ness has insisted that:

  • Serious writers need a blog like peanut butter needs jelly; and
  • Daily blog posts are the one and only way to build your audience and create a platform.

Not Anymore

Now Mom says that “daily blogging thing” fits like a rhino in leotards. I’m not sure why. But you know how moms are.

She showed me Ali Luke’s post, “How Often Should You Blog? (Hint: The Answer Might Surprise You)” by Ali Luke. She says:

“Over the past couple of years, there’s been a shift in the blogging world. More and more prominent bloggers-on-blogging are moving away from daily posting—and reassuring their readers that you don’t have to post every day in order to be successful. “

Luke continues, quoting Darren Rowse of Problogger:

“I once surveyed readers here on ProBlogger about the reasons they unsubscribed from RSS feeds, and the number one answer was ‘posting too much.’ Respondents expressed that they developed ‘burnout’ and would unsubscribe if a blog became too ‘noisy.’”

Mom and I recently re-evaluated the writing blogs we follow. She dumped several. We simply don’t have time to read lots of posts on a daily basis, “particularly if they’re the blog equivalent of War and Peace.” (I say “we” because who do you think is sitting on the floor next to her, tail wagging a mile a minute while she plows through this stuff? Sometimes she even reads out loud. I like that especially.)

A Crackly Crisp and Criteria

Trying to read and crank out quality posts every day had us both fried to a crackly crisp. Been there, done that? If so, it’s okay to scale back. (More time for walks!)

Thinking about this, we decided to throttle blog posts back to a more realistic schedule of once a week or twice a month. Maybe less. There’s no sense cranking out noise just to fill the screen. Besides. When it comes to “building a platform,” it’s okay to not be in a hurry.

A Matter of Priorities

So daily blog posts may be over-rated. If your first passion is blogging, says Her Mom-ness, then get at it and go to it. But if it’s working on your next novel, short story or creative non-fiction piece, concentrate on that first. Blog when you can.

I find that having a treat close at hand always helps. My favorite is Alpo Little Bites. Beef. Just sayin’.

“Besides,” says Mom, “I’m pretty sure neither you nor I will turn into a pumpkin if we’re not blogging every day. Blogging is supposed to be fun. A creative outlet. Not a tedious, tiresome chore. So relax and enjoy the ride.”

Someone say, “dinner”?

How often do you blog? What do you look for in a blog post?

Celebrating ~200 Books in 6 Months!

“We did it, Kimmi!” Mom crowed this morning. “Time to par-tay!!

Mom’s so pumped today.  She’s flitting around the house, practically dancing. So embarrassing.

Wait. Someone say “another dog biscuit?” Okay. Any time I get extra treats must be a good time. And you know I’m always up for a good time.

So, what’s the occasion? Mom says, “We just about reached our 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge today! Almost 200 books from January 1 to June 30. That’s nearly our entire goal for the year in just six months! Woo-hoo!”

Anything for a party.

The exact number of books we’ve read in six months is 198. (That’s what the ~ means in the title. It means “almost.”) Short. Medium. Long. And I’m not talking fur coats, if ya know what I mean.

You can read more here. Also:

Judging from the extra treats, that must mean something. Something really good.

You know I like to help. I’m a Helper Extraordinaire, according to Her Mom-ness. Not sure what means. All I did was curl up in her lap and keep her company through like, eight zillion pages. (That counts, even though I spent most of the time snoozing, right?) I walked to the library with her so many times, I thought we were changing addresses. And listened to like, seven zillion audio books. Helped her figure out Overdrive.

Hmmm. Now that I think about it, I did a lot to help Mom reach this part of her Reading Challenge. There’s no telling what she’s going to do the rest of the year. Got any ideas?

Me? I just hope she doesn’t ask me to Cha-Cha. Oh dear…

 

Beaches, Birthdays, and Books

I kind of forgot. Screaming down the freeway with the wind in my fur. Incredible smells zipping past my open window. Mom doing that “sing thing” behind the wheel.

I thought we were headed to The Big Book Place, as usual. But Mom keeps going. Right past the double doors. Hangs a right near the Big Blue. Is that salt air? Sea gulls? A discarded Big Mac?

Oh happy day!

We hit the beach running. Mom hollers, “Happy birthday Kimmi! You’re two years old today!” She brought a blanket, books, the frisbee, and a lunch basket. And extra treats.

Did I say Oh happy day yet?

Mom reminds that today is my birthday. Not sure what that means. But she seems happy about it. So I am too. She also says I’m two years old today. Whatever that means.

Sea gull!

Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah. The beach. Birthdays. Books.

You know Mom can’t seem to go anywhere without a book bag crammed with book thingies. Here’s today’s haul:

Looks good to me!

Now. Who’s game for a little frisbee tag and a lot of shake-off-the-water-ing?

You’re it! Betcha can’t catch the birthday girl!

REAL DADS: Not Just One Sunday in June

Dad Naas Scan 2

It’s Father’s Day. Time for a card or two. A new tie. Maybe breakfast in bed or a nice dinner out. But have you noticed? There’s something off-kilter about a culture that spends 364 days a year belittling dear old dad, then turns around to “honor” him on one Sunday in June.

Sadly, we live in a time and place where dads are often viewed or portrayed as: 1) Bumbling oafs who can’t tie their shoes without written instructions; 2) Insensitive clods and boorish louts or; 3) Invisible and irrelevant. Like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without peanut butter. Or jelly. Or bread.

What Does It Mean?

There’s a fair amount of confusion about what constitutes a “real dad.” Some equate dadness with volume, brute force, or beer bellies. They think the dude who sires a string of children and then disappears without a trace makes the yahoo a “father.” Or “dad” is the lunkhead who throws his weight around because there’s plenty of it. There’s a word for these kinds of guys. And it’s not “dad.” (Since this is a G-rated blog, you’ll have to fill in the blanks yourself.)

Real Dads

Real Dads can be hard to find these days. There are plenty of fakes. Just turn on the TV. But the Real Deal is still around. And often unsung.

A Real Dad is decent, hard-working, and upstanding. A Real Dad takes his family, job, and responsibilities seriously. He gets outside himself to benefit others. A Real Dad puts his family first. Even when it’s “inconvenient.” Sometimes especially when it’s inconvenient.

Faucets, Flicks and Foregoing

Real Dads fix leaky faucets. Hang pictures or wall paper (without killing anyone). Walk on the outside of the sidewalk, nearest the street. Endure chick flicks without complaint. A Real Dad may toil long hours in a thankless job to keep a roof over his family’s heads and put food on the table. Forego Monday Night Football to cheer a child’s Little League game. Put up a tent in the rain. Do dishes. Clean up dog barf. Teach junior how to slide into second without breaking anything. Stay home with the kids so Mom can have lunch out with the ladies.

Go Get Them

Real Dads take 1:00 a.m. phone calls in the middle of a sleep-over – come get me Daddy, I’m scared – and break every land-speed record on the books in the process. They attend daughter’s tea parties, scrunch their knees into their chins in those made-for-kindergartener chairs. Down gallons of pretend tea and wear those funny little party hats like they’re dining with royalty. Because they know they are.

Real Dads may not always know how to express themselves. They may have a hard time finding the words to tell the wife and kids how much they mean to him. So they do instead of say, speaking the language of self-sacrifice, service and grace.

Real Dads

  • Don coat and tie and conduct somber graveside services for dead gold fish and neon tetras.
  • Remove their hats, hold ’em over their heart and sing about rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air as their eyes mist.
  • Burn Christmas Eve and the wee hours of December 25 assembling brand new purple Schwinns.
  • Open those stupid pickle jar lids.
  • Spend an entire afternoon traipsing from store to store in the mall with the wife or kids, pretending they’re having a great time.
  • Say Yes when they can and No when they should.
  • Have arms that embrace, shield and protect. Their shoulders are big enough to ride, cry on, and hide behind.
  • Pray. And teach their kids to pray.
  • Are never quite thanked enough.

Real Dads cement a protective wall around the fam as no one else can. Real Dads stand on that wall, often alone, and patrol. Real Dads put any lurking menace or stalking evil on notice with, “Not on my watch. You’ll have to come through me first, and I’m here for keeps.”

With Dad at Neff

How do I know? Because my dad was a Real Dad. And not just on one Sunday in June.

***

This post was previously published on June 16, 2013.

Celebrate “Great Outdoors Month” With These Awesome Outdoor Reads!

Frozen Lake Trail out of Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park.

June is Great Outdoors Month. I love this month because… well… um… I love June because Mom loves June. And I love everything Mom loves. (Except broccoli. Gag me with roughage!)

Back to June. Check it out: Hiking! Frisbee tossing! Swimming! Canoeing! Frisbee chasing! Kayaking! Fishing! Frisbee-ing! Picnicking! Biking! Frisbees! The beach, the mountains, the desert, the plains!

Did I mention Frisbees?

Anyway, when it comes to books about The Great Outdoors, Gary Paulsen titles top our list. Every time.

Mom says Paulsen’s a three-time Newberry Award-wining author. I have no idea what that means. Can you eat it?

More importantly, Paulsen is a super duper dog lover. Told he’s brilliant.

Paulsen’s writing style is spare and lean to the point of terse. No excess fat. Brisk as an autumn breeze. Quick as a greyhound. Or me.

Reading any of the Paulsen books below would be a great way to celebrate Great Outdoors Month. You still have time to knock out a couple or more this month.

Some of our favorites:

  1. Hatchet –Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson’s small plane goes down in the Canadian wilderness. He’s alone, except for a tattered windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present. It will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive. Newberry winner.
  2. Dogsong (pretty obvious, huh?).  Oogruk the shaman owns the last team of dogs in the village. He alone understands Russel’s longing for the old ways and the songs that celebrated them. Driven by a strange and powerful dream and by a burning desire to find his own song, Russel takes Oogruk’s dogs on an epic journey of self-discovery that will change his life forever.
  3. The River – Book two of the Brian saga. The government sends Brian back to the Canadian wilderness.
  4. Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod –  Paulsen writes about his experience running his team of dogs in this famous race. Snowstorms, frostbite, dogfights, moose attacks, sleeplessness, and hallucinations in the relentless push to go on.
  5. Wood Song – Paulsen has survived a dogsled crash and a fall down a frozen waterfall, a bear attack, and running the grueling Iditarod. In this vivid, vibrant book, the author recounts the experiences that shaped his life and inspired his award-winning writing.
  6. My Life in Dog Years – Don’t make me explain this.

Oh yeah. Nothing about broccoli. I like this Gary guy more and more.

Honorable mentions:

 

What are your favorite outdoor books and authors?

Kimber the Amazing Frisbee Chasing, Book-Loving Dog!

 

Rockin’ It This Summer With Reading

Kimber The Reading Dog.

Mom’s at it again. She’s skipping merrily around the house, opening every window in sight.  Humming that Temptations song. You know the one. About sunshine on a cloudy day.

Here in the ever-soggy Pacific Northwest, we take whatever we can get in the “sunshine” department. Maybe that explains Mom lately. Why she keeps crowing, “Summer’s comin’! Woo-hoo!”

Has anyone found my frisbee? Cuz frankly, what’s summer without a nice, chewy, frisbee?

Well. According to Her Mom-ness, “summer” also means the library’s summer adult reading program. Last year she read 136 books in 92 days. This year there’s a “limit”: Twenty books.

What’s up with that?

Anyway, this year’s theme is Libraries Rock. Some brain surgeon (The Powder Puff?) decided to combine the adult program with the children’s and teen reading programs. A one-size-fits-none kind of deal.

The sign-up form for tracking your reading progress includes stuff like coloring, singing a song or learning five new words. You write this down every time you finish a book.

Is there a shortage of grown-up Taste of the Wild in the building?

Not to worry. You know Mom and me and books. We’re not going to let something this silly slow us down. No siree, Lassie!

We’ve read eight books and one audio book since we signed up on June 1. Coloring notwithstanding, we’re gonna “rock” this summer. Reading highlights so far:

And a re-read of an old favorite: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

Another stand out: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin.

It’s post-WWII Europe with a catch. A big one: Hitler won. Now a survivor of Nazi experimentation in a death camp, Yael is on a mission to win a race and kill Hitler.

“I couldn’t put it down!” says Her Mom-ness. “It’s a barn burner.” Maybe I should grab a fire extinguisher?

I’d say more, but I feel another skipping session coming on.

 

Meanwhile, have you signed up for your library’s summer reading program? What are your reading goals for this summer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock skipping photo credit: Flickr – Creative Commons License