Ya Gotta Have the ‘Want To’

“383 books in one year?!” people suck in their breath. “How’d you do it?”

Well. I gotta be honest. It was me.

I mean, ‘cmon. Who do you think took Mom on all those walks to the library to grab the latest truckloadsof unread titles? Who do you think nosed through Mom’s book bag(s) until I settled on something worthy and trotted it out? Who do you think sat in her lap while she turned pages? And pages. And pages.

And. Pages.

You know how modest I am. But, hey. As they say, If you’ve got it, flaunt it. And I definitely Have. It.

Oh, sure. Mom says being a fast reader – somewhere between warp speed and 100 mph with your hair on fire – helps. Ditto audio books. Creative juggling. Prioritizing. Self-discipline.

Also reading and eating. Reading (audio) and driving. Reading and washing dishes, folding laundry, cleaning out the basement, mopping the floor, cooking (audio). Reading and walking (audio). Reading in the check out line. At red lights. In the doctor’s and dentist’s waiting room. Setting aside one day a week to read. Logging off the computer. Turning off the phone. Letting voice mail handle it.

Being a voracious reader and lifelong-bibliophile who’d rather get lost in a good book than eat doesn’t hurt, either.

But. If you really, really want to read 383 books in one year like Mom, here’s the key: Ya gotta have the want to.

It all comes down to commitment. Desire. Drive. Aka: the “want to.”

But we all know the real score here. Mom got all those books read because of me. After all, I’m a World Champion Want-To-er. I’m happiest when I’m with my peeps. Reading. Driving. Walking. At red lights. Waiting. Supervising (“Quiet! Mom’s reading!”). In Mom’s lap while she turns pages.

See? Told you it was me.

I love this job. Wait. Do I smell bacon?

Kimber the Magnificent (and modest, too!)

 

What’s your “gotta have the want to” for 2019?

Advertisements

10 Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress

You know I’m a happy camper, right? My middle name is “merry and bright”! So I don’t quite get all this barking about “holiday stress.” Mom says it’s a thing. So it must be a thing. Right?

Well. You also know I’m a helper. I help going out on walks and hikes. Cleaning up kitchen spills. Guarding the house. Especially from menacing deer. Lurking Fed Ex drivers. Sketchy-looking plastic bags.

Being a world class helper and all, I figure I better help with this holiday stress thing. So here are my top ten tips for reducing holiday stress. Ready? Okay. Here goes:

1 – 9: Get a dog.

10. Take her for long walks. Preferably without that stupid orange doggie coat.

What?

Oh, alright. Mom says I have to try harder to be helpful. Sigh. Here we go:

  1. Take extra precautions to stay healthy. Getting sick can wreck anyone’s holiday faster than you can say “Ebenezer.” So drink plenty of water. Get a good night’s sleep. Wash your hands. (Something about killing germs?) Take Vitamin C to ward off the effects of Jack Frost. (Anyone nipping at my family’s noses is in deep doo-doo! Just sayin’.)
  2. Say “No.” I hear this all the time. It’s easy. Like, if it feels wrong, too stressful, or there’s a cat involved, just trot out this handy-dandy two-letter word. Works wonders!
  3. Make scents. No, really. Find a plug-in, candle, or potpourri pot with a favorite, soothing scent. Activate. Let it fill the whole house with a refreshing, relaxing aroma. (Mom made me say that.)
  4. Exercise. Even if you have to chug up stairs or do jumping jacks in the basement due to weather, get moving! Get that heart rate up! Exercise reduces stress. (Or you could just walk the dog, ya know.)
  5. Sing. I don’t quite get it, but Mom always feels better when she’s rocking out to Manheim Steimroller at nose bleed volume (see # 4, above). Or belting out Joy to the World at the top of her lungs. So it must work. You could also listen to this guy:

6. Take a hot bath. And lock the door. (Mom made me say that, too. You know how moms are.)

7. Practice an “attitude of gratitude.” Like me. I’m thankful for everything! Family! Walks! Chow! A new leash! A warm fireplace! Sunshine! Well, okay. Maybe not The Powder Puff on four legs. (Nobody’s perfect.) Altho I wouldn’t know myself, I hear it’s hard to be a Scrooge when you’re focusing on being thankful.

8. Slow. Down. For just five minutes, okay? Related: Apply the “KISS” principle. Keep things simple. If you don’t know how to do that, lemme help:

9. Get a dog. (That Scrooge dude? Bet he was a feline fun. Hah, bumhug!)

10. Hang out with me! Cuz I love everyone! O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy…

What To Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Someone who shall remain nameless (hi, Mom) forgot to get me breakfast the other day. So I didn’t have a whole lot of sympathy when she started sniffing about a well-worn Christmas writing contest going the way of the Dodo.

“I’ve been writing and submitting entries to that site’s annual writing contest for years,” whined Her Mom-ness. “I’ve even won a couple times. So what’s up with The Final Shutdown?”

“Now you know how I feel?” I wanted to say. I wagged my tail instead. Offered to share my favorite treat with her. She wasn’t interested. Even though these goodies are “100% natural. Non-GMO.” Made “with real mixed berries.” Okay, so it was pre-chewed. But only a little.

“Mom? Mom!” I said, trying to get her back on track. You know how writers are. “Stop that whining already. I’m trying to think here!”

Now. Where was I?

Anyway, Mom kinda didn’t know what to do after being thrown for that wet cat. I’ll let her narrate in her own words (sometimes there’s just no accounting for taste.)

Her Mom-Ness:

Wanting to get a running start on the Christmas story contest season in 2017, I wrote a seasonal story in the fall of last year, as the Indian summer of September slid into the cool kindliness of October. When I sat down to submit it, I found that the site was no longer running the contest. “We hope to be back next year,” the site admin replied to my inquiry. “Please feel free to submit your story in 2018.”

I dug up my 2017 story, One Cold Night, dusted it off and polished it up for submission to the 2018 Christmas story contest. To my dismay, I discovered that not only was the contest not going on this year, but the entire web site had been scrubbed. Closed. History. Gone.

“That was a lot of work for nothing,” I thought.

Me

So Her Mom-ness decided to do something else. “Just because that site no longer exists doesn’t mean I or my story have to follow suit.”

So she spiffed up her story. Ignored the contest-imposed 800 word limit. Added about 600 words. “Now it’s a micro story,” she chirped. “I’ll just publish it myself.”

As in, if a door closes, find another way in. Or open a window.

This right after I gently reminded her about breakfast. With the subtlety of a ton of dog chow. Priorities, ya know?

Mmm… Mom’s Christmas micro tale… crunch… arf… is called… mmmm… good… One Cold Night. And you can get it for FREE right here. It’s almost as good as breakfast! Crunch…. munch… yum…

Almost.

20-ish Top Reads of 2018

“Clear the decks!” crows Mom. “It’s Best Books time!”

She may be a bit confused. Ever since my puppy days it’s been “deck the halls” this time of year. Well. You know how moms are. Especially when someone asks, “Which kid is your favorite?”

Okay, okay. So no one put it quite like that. But plenty have asked which books are her favorite. “It’s almost the same thing,” sniffs Mom.

Hah, bumhug! says I.

Arf you may know, Mom met her 2018 reading challenge last week: 365 books in one year. People keep asking which “kids” are her favorite from that long, long list. (For background, see: When They Tell You It’s “Impossible.” Also see: How I Read 100+ books in 90 days.)

I’m kinda curious myself. I gave her the puppy eyes look.

Works every time.

So ‘clear the decks’ for Mom’s Top Reads of 2018.

Warning: “That ‘top 20’ thing’s just not gonna happen,” says Mom.

Indeed, competition for a spot on Mom’s ‘totally subjective, 100% unscientific’ list was fierce. So bow-wow-ish, in fact, that Mom divided the list into four basic categories:

  1. Best Fiction
  2. Best Non-Fiction
  3. Best Series
  4. Favorite Authors.

Also Honorable Mentions.

Each book earned its respective spot based on quality of writing, creativity and poignancy, superior characterizations, outstanding, unique plots and overall excellence. And Just Plain Fun. (Note: No book that brainlessly, repeatedly deploys gratuitous profanity ever makes Mom’s “best” list. She calls that “sloppy-writing-lazy.” Hah, bumhug again.)

365 books in one year. And then some! November 27, 2018.

Anyway, Mom’s Top Books Read in 2018 are,in no particular order:

Best Fiction

  1. Hattie Big Sky – Kirby Larson
  2. Time for Andrew – Mary Downing Hahn
  3. A Dog Called Homeless – Sarah Lean
  4. Run Far, Run Fast – Walt Morey
  5. The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford
  6. There Come a Soldier Peggy Mercer
  7. Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin
  8. Anchor in the Storm – Sarah Sundin
  9. The Wood – Chelsea Bobulski
  10. Man O’War – Walter Farley
  11. The Journey Back – Priscilla Cummings
  12. Sarah Bishop, Thunder Rolling in the Mountains – Scott O’Dell
  13. The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary Pearson
  14. Ever the Hunted– Erin Summerill
  15. Hoot – Carl Hiassen
  16. Dividing Eden – Joelle Charbonneau
  17. The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
  18. Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Re-reading a seasonal favorite, “The Christmas Box,” by Richard Paul Evans.

Best Nonfiction

  1. A Prisoner and Yet – Corrie ten Boom
  2. The Kite Runner (historical fiction) – Khaled Hosseini
  3. The Black Dogs Project – Fred Levy
  4. Before Amen – Max Lucado
  5. My Family for the War (historical novel) – Anne Voorhoeve
  6. Great Lodges of the National Parks – Christine Barnes
  7. Hidden Child – Isaac Millman

Best Series

  1. The Misty of Chincoteague series – Marguerite Henry
  2. The Silver Brumby series – Elyne Mitchell
  3. Billy and Blaze books– C.W. Anderson
  4. The Jimmy Vega mystery series – Suzanne Chazin
  5. Black Stallion series– Walter Farley
  6. The Survivors series – Erin Hunter
  7. Fire and Thorns trilogy – Rae Carson

Favorite Authors

Honorable Mentions

Well, woof the deck! Or something. All this reading and book-ing makes me hungry. About that leftover pot roast… You gonna eat that?

 

Tails From a Thanksgiving Expert

I’m an expert on thanksgiving. Just ask Mom. I’m thankful for just about everything and everyone. That dropped bit of bacon. Unattended hot dogs. Belly rubs! Sea gulls! Snoozes in the sun. Walks in the woods! My favorite blanket, right next to the heating vent.

Mom says words related to “thankful” include gratitude. Appreciation. Gladness. Being at peace. Contentment. Cheer.

See? Told you I’m an expert.

A few things that make my tail wag like a pinwheel:

The guy who walks by my yard every day. Mark has yellow hair and dark glasses. His voice is light and friendly. “I’ve never had much use for dogs,” he once said, reaching over the fence to pet me. “I was a confirmed a cat lover. Until I met Kimber.” He’s my best friend!

The lady across the street who delivers the newspapers. “Hello Kimber!” she says when she walks by. She has short dark hair. She smells like sunshine and good cheer. June also knows just where to scratch me behind my ears. She’s my best friend!

The lady in a wheelchair who smells like generosity and good memories. I always say “hello” when she rolls by. I smile. She smiles back. Mary’s my best friend!

I keep a sharp eye out for my next door neighbor. Sometimes I see Virginia out for a walk when Mom and I are out for our walk! I remind her how happy I am to see her! She smiles. It’s a sparkly kind of smile. I like that. She’s my best friend!

A big black dog lives across the street. She’s older. Doesn’t move so fast anymore. I say hello to her across the street. Lexy doesn’t usually answer. She’s not as talkative as me. But when we cross the street, we exchange greetings and neighborhood news. She’s my best friend! Sometimes Lexy’s grandpa comes to visit. He always saves me at treat. He’s my best… oh, never mind.

I’m also thankful for a job. Mine is patrolling the property and keeping everyone safe. I smell everyone who comes by, making sure they smell friendly. Every once in a while someone doesn’t smell right. I alert my family immediately! I’m the scout. The look out. Just ask the neighborhood cats and the deer who wander out of the woods.

On the job!

In fact, I often lie awake at night, making sure nothing happens to anyone in my house. It’s a big responsibility. But I’m up for it. After I make sure no one has died in their sleep, the next morning I take a snooze in that nice sunny patch in the yard.

Sometimes I talk to people when Mom and I are out on walks. My favorite people are the ones who are small and can’t really talk yet. They understand me just fine. And I understand them. We both know words like Mom and Dad and brothers. Sit. Snack. Lunch time. Car ride!

I used to tell these little people about myself. They knew what I was saying. They would tell me things back. Like, “Macaroni and cheese again?” Or “I am not ready for my nap! Am not! Am not! Am not!”

But I’ve noticed something. These little ones don’t stay little. They grow. Get bigger. Taller. Like my brothers. The more they grow, the less they understand what I’m saying. And the less I understand them. Especially when they start saying things like, “Internal Revenue Service.” “Presidential debate.” Or, “what’s the Wi Fi code?”

Meanwhile, Mom says, “Thanksgiving Day is almost here!” I’m not quite sure what that means. But if Mom’s merrily skipping about the house, cooking up a storm, it must be something good. So I’m up for it.

Thanksgiving 2017

On Thanksgiving Day, I’ll do what I do every day. Be thankful. Glad. Content. On. The. Job. I’ll make sure everyone who comes to my house smells right. Then all my best friends, new and old, will sit around the table and pass wonderful-smelling food around. I may have to sit on the porch. It’s so hard to stay calm with all the excitement and delicious smells!

But I have a plan. I’ll help clear the plates. You know, lick them clean. No one will notice. They’ll be too busy talking and laughing. Waiting for dessert. If I play my biscuits right, someone might save me a bit of their dinner. Or drop something under the table. Oh, happy day!

After dinner, I’ll snuggle into the recliner with Mom. We always watch George Bailey, Sam Wainwright, Mr. Martini, Bert the Cop, Ernie the cab driver, Old Man Gower and Clarence Oddbody, A.S. II every Thanksgiving night.

Family. Faith. Redemption. Best friends. Good food. A nice, warm bed. Long walks. Sunshine. A yard I don’t have to share with a cat. Told you I’m a thankfulness expert.

How ‘bout you?

The In-Between Month & The Dreaded Orange Raincoat

Mom calls November the “in-between” month. Not quite winter. Not really full fall. Lots of trees have dumped their leaves. Temperatures are dropping. But not low enough for snow. Here on the Olympic Peninsula, the rains return. And return. And return.

When the weather turns wet, Mom insists on dragging out The Dreaded Orange Raincoat. Why does she do this? Is she averse to getting soaked to the collar, crashing through every puddle in sight, or galumphing around town up to her nose in rain water?

Me, I’m fine with all of the above. (I am part Lab, you know. As in water dog.)

Anyway, did I mention they closed the book place awhile back? For “renovations.” About a million dollars worth. I don’t know what that means. Can you eat it?

But it means we haven’t been able to walk over to the library lately. One of us really hates that.

Good news: The book place is supposed to re-open in about a week or so.

So you might call November the “in between month” for reasons not related to weather. Or seasons. It’s in between closures and re-openings of a favorite place in town.

At least for one of us.

The other just wants to shed her stupid rain coat.

6 Great Authors for Midlife Readers

First things first. I haven’t moved houses or switched dog food brands. My humans are all fine. The neighborhood powder puff – that yappy little furball on four legs – is still around. So annoying. We’ve just been running around all over the place. Seems like we just wrapped up summer and now we’re halfway through fall!

Squirrel!

Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah. Halfway through fall.

Speaking of “halves,” Mom and Dad have been thinking about midlife reading lately. Cuz two of us (who shall remain nameless) are right there. You know, that time in life where relationships change. So does work. Or so I’m told. Then there’s The Kid. At age 19, the dude actually thinks he’s an adult.

We need to talk, bro!

Well. Somebody recently posted a list of 10 Great Books to Read at Midlife. Yabba-dabba-gag-me. The powder puff could’ve come up with better choices.

Not to be outdone by ‘ole pp, Mom and I put together our own list of Top 10 Favorite Reads for Midlife. Then we got to thinking, what’s up with that? Why limit the list to “midlife”? A good read is a good read, right?

So rather than list titles, Mom and I decided to settle on some favorite authors. Because once sweater weather arrives and I get to roll around in mounds of nice, crackly leaves and jump in mud puddles, it’s also a great time to curl up with a hot mug of whatever and a good book. “Besides,” chirps Mom, “Midlife isn’t really the ‘fall’ of life. Seems more like spring to me!”

So if you’re looking to spring into some peppy, vivacious fall reads by some top-notch authors who deliver heaping helpings  of inspiration, hope, and grace and have some fun while you’re doing that midlife thing – or whatever – here ya go (in no particular order):

Jan Karon

We’re big Mitford fans. Jan does uplifting, inspirational reads about three-dimensional characters as eccentric as they are lovable and authentic. Besides. Who can resist a main character with a dog as big as a Buick?

Max Lucado

‘Max is a preacher with a storyteller’s gift — a pastor’s heart and a poet’s pen. Max’s message is simple: God loves you; let him.’

Richard Paul Evans

A master storyteller whose beautifully crafted, gentle love stories always include one essential element: Hope. He typically releases a new title every year in the fall. See my tail wagging?

Gary Paulsen

If you enjoy outdoors adventures, you’ll love this guy. What else would you expect from a dog lover and a one-time Iditarod competitor?

Anna Quindlen

Mom says she doesn’t agree with this author on anything politically. But that Anna’s a great “get real” writer with lots of insight. I don’t know what that means. But it sounds good. Does it come with milk bones?

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura published her first little house book at age 65. ‘Sides. I like her dog Jack. Bet we could’ve been buddies.

 

Who would you add?

 

CAUTION: Blue Book Funk Ahead

Kimber the Magnificent here. Holding down the fort while Her Momness is holding down a blue book funk. Frankly, I don’t get it. How can anyone be in a blue funk when they’ve got me? But I guess somethin’s goin’ down at The Book Place. Where Her Momness spends half her life.

I mean, we just wrapped up a whole summer reading program. Yeah, 156 books in three months. We practically lived at The Book Place. But it’s going to be inaccessible for awhile. Hence the blue book funk. It goes like this:

Our book place was built in 1911. What’s that in dog years?  Not sure. But the place is lookin’ a little long in the tooth. So our local library (aka: The Book Place) is getting lots of fixes to its masonry, floor, drywall and plaster, and insulation work. New lighting fixtures and windows. Also new paint and carpeting. That kind of stuff.

Why they’re not putting in a doggie door with auto-treats, I don’t know. But this renov thing? They’re talking a closure of about six weeks. Starting October 1.

Mom? Hello, Mom? No fair fainting. Can you get off the floor now? We can always skip over to The Book Place ahead of the closure and stock up, right? I’ll help. You know I’m a helper. It’s what I do.

You can help, too. What access to books do you recommend as an alternative to libraries? I’m hearing about this critter named “Audible.” Is that a thing? Askin’ for a friend.

Meanwhile, don’t worry about Her Momness. I got this.

They Done Him Wrong: ‘Christopher Robin’ Falls Flat

Have I mentioned that Her Mom-ness is sometimes a bit of a mutterer? Especially when it comes to making a movie out of a well-loved book?

Her Mom-ness and The Kid went to see a movie last week. It had the unmitigated gall to pretend it was based on an A.A. Milne classic. (“Unmitigated gall.” Isn’t that a great mutter? Learned it from Mom.)

Anyway, this Disney release pretends to be about Christopher Robin and his boyhood buds from the Hundred Acre Wood. Or something. Except that now Christopher is all grown up. Living in London. He gets a surprise visit from his old buddy Winnie-the-Pooh. There’s a train. Lots of trees. Fog. A return to London.

The rest of the meandering, strained storyline has to do with Christopher’s return to the Hundred Acre Wood, fighting Heffalumps and Woozles and a sneering, shifty boss. Also Christopher’s guilt over reneging on a promise to spend a weekend at the cottage with his wife and daughter due to a work deadline.

“Moves with the alacrity of a three-toed sloth” Mom opined. She literally fell asleep during the first hour of this “snooze-fest.” Nodded off right there in the theater for a couple minutes. Woke up. Hadn’t missed a bloomin’ thing.

The movie can’t decide whether it’s a nostalgic look back or a “silly explanation” of present time. With honey. In the end, it just doesn’t work. And what’s up with that creepy neighbor dude and Gin Rummy?

“Virtually incoherent” Mom muttered. Is there a point here? Cuz now would be good.”

“Stick with the books,” Mom concluded, shaking her head. “You can’t go wrong with The Real Deal.” We both like Pooh better on the printed page. Way better.

The good news: I got a long walk and a game of frisbee in, post theatrical dud. With ‘nary a Mom Mutter along the way.

Is this place great, or what?

Have you ever been turned off by the movie adaptation or extension of a favorite story or book? Why?

 

 

 

Image credit

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.)