Monday, February 8, 2016

Pet News 19: Tips for Treating your Pet

Here comes that time of year where fleas and other critters spring up and bother our pets.

As I research and try some ideas of how best to combat them, I’ve found a couple that do work. I’ll share them here. You can try them, but like humans, not every pet will respond the same Here are a couple of things to try. Always consult with a veterinarian.


For fleas, I found this recipe of natural repellants on Natural Dog Care by Christopher Day (2010): cedar wood, eucalyptus, garlic, lemongrass, lemon, neem

- dilute oils in water (2or 3 drops per cup of water) and then comb through the dog’s coat 

  • aromatherapy oils strategically placed in areas where a flea might choose to breed ex. carpet edges, skirting boards, floorboard cracks, and down the sides of chairs will help tame the tiny beasts 

For flies, I’ve tried eucalyptus leaves brewed like tea.

- boil the leaves in water, once cooled, pour into a spray bottle, then, soak a cloth and rub/massage your pet’s ears.

- this can also be used on the whole dog’s body to detract insects


For cuts and scrapes, use aloe vera.

-cut the plant leaf from the plant; split open the leaf rind with a knife and use the juice (clear fleshy part) and let sit on skin for an hour.

Note: if your dog is like mine, you can tie it in place or just massage on like cream


Monday, February 1, 2016

Short Stories & Such 22: Career Day

The Writer’s Digest Prompt for ‘Career Day’ was written back in August 21, 2012. I decided to make some changes and keep the perspective on the father and what he’s going through as a parent. I hope you enjoy this first post of the month! If you’re interested in reading the comments, you can check out the website



Okay. I can do this. Take a deep breath and walk inside your son’s classroom for Career Day.

There’s the doorknob.

Why can’t I just turn the darn thing?  

Okay, okay. Take another deep breath. You can do this public speaking thing.

Ignore the sweat already making its way down your back. I hate how it trickles into my…. shake it off. Shake it off.


“Good morning.”

“Uh, good morning.”

“I’m the principal, Mrs. Malarkey. Did you get lost looking for the room? Our school’s designed in a strange way.”

“No, no. I’m getting my bearings before I go inside.”

“Oh, I see.” She smiled. “You’re here to talk at your child’s school for Career Day.”

“Yes, I’m trying to… remember my lines.”

“I see.” She smiled again. Dimples and crooked teeth. “Who’s your son?”

“Matthew. Matthew Starke.”

“Oh, yes. He told us yesterday you were coming. I’m glad you did. Well, don’t take too long. Students tend to get excited on these days.” She turned the doorknob and walked into the office. She held the door ajar, and said, “Good luck.”


I agreed to talk to the class because Matthew was set on having all his friends meet the person who helped design the new super-duper roller coaster ride at PhunLand. The only thing is, I lost my job. Yesterday. And… I haven’t told him yet.


After signing in and sticking the visitor pass on my vest, I head down the corridor.

I’ve walked these halls before. Come on. Come on. 

There’s the room.

My eyes close and my Adam’s apple gets stuck in my throat.

Here goes…



“Hi, Matt.”

He waved from his seat. The biggest grin on his face.

“Good morning, Mr. Starke,” the teacher greeted me, then, turned her attention to the students. “Class, this is Matthew’s father, Mr. Starke.”


They all bellowed.

My palms stuck to my pants pockets as the teacher guided me to the front of the classroom.

I watched my son’s eyes sparkle from across the room and gulping, I began…

“You know kids the most important job is being a parent. A job is second to that role in life. Sometimes, you give everything you’ve got into a career and then, poof!” I snapped my fingers. “It’s gone. Just like that. Then, you have to look for another job… hopefully in the same profession…”

“Mr. Starke… um…” the teacher cleared her throat. “Maybe we can have the students ask some questions?”

“Oh, sure.”


The questions poured in and I spit out the answers like a slot machine or was it more like a punching bag?

But, there sat Matthew, upright. Everyone smiling and enjoying my drawing of the latest roller coaster project I am working on. I couldn’t spoil it for him. Being a parent teaches you that. I’ll have to wait a few days for his glory to wear down to tell him the truth.




P.S. Just wanted to let all of you who have been following my poetry exploits that I was not chosen as the winner to the Jupiter Artland Writing Contest, but being a runner up was a feat itself. Thank you for reading!



Monday, January 25, 2016

Books I’m Reading 20

Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box by JonArno Lawson is a collection of children’s poetry. Lawson’s poetry merits on the nonsensical, lyrical, rhyme, and just plain fun. If you like Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss, this is a book for you.

Love & Misadventure by Lang Leav is a collection of poetry. Most of the poems are short, but they make you think and they have deep feelings. A good read.

The Complete Artist’s Manual: The Definite Guide to Painting and Drawing by Simon Jennings is a great resource for materials, tools, paint, tips, and more in regards to painting and drawing. The main thing is to paint what interests you so the work expresses those emotions.

Dark Side of the Moon by Sherrilyn Kenyon is a novel part of the Dark-Hunter’s series the author created, which deals with vampires and magic combined with Greek mythology.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Art 8: the lonely Giant

This is a life drawing of a male model with a ponytail. It took 30 minutes to do and I feel it needs more shading and lighting for it to stand out. I do think it’s a good interpretation of what I saw and from far, I get a sense of loneliness mixed with strength. I called it the Giant.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Writing Workshop 15: The Red Umbrella

During the MT. SAC Writer’s Weekend Fiction Workshop led by Paul Tayyar, we were given a picture prompt of a man holding a red umbrella and being swept up. Tayyar wanted us to use the image as a springboard to our story. The following is a draft of what I came up with.

The Red Umbrella

Landon stood there, staring at the cedar wood door with the flower wreath hung over it. He thought of the things he told his wife and wished to take back, but it was too late. She wasn’t going to hear his side of the story, only the remarks made by nosy girlfriends claiming they saw him with another woman. Yes. He held the woman’s arm. Not as a couple. As a long-time acquaintance.
When the rain stopped, Landon’s wife tossed out a red umbrella, shouting that it belonged to him. Nothing else belonged to him. It was true. He had married her five years ago. She came from a wealthy family and had moved in to Rancho Robles. Though, he owned nothing, she found something in him worth loving.
Loosening his tie, Landon dragged his feet to the umbrella, sprawled on the wet ground like a beating heart from the sobbing clouds.
At least he still had his job at the firm. He picked up the umbrella and shook the droplets off. Turning it over, he opened the umbrella, and a strong gust of wind almost blew it out of his hands.
Like a leaf floating up, his body and the stresses of his life disappeared. He held firmly to the one thing he could as he joined the gray ashen clouds in the sky.

You can try a similar exercise by choosing postcards, magazines, books, or online images as a prompt to write a short story or more... You never know what you're going to get!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Death as Metaphor 21: Two Poems Jumping in the Death Pool

I want to say I’ve been fortunate most of my work delves into the topic of death, but as I’ve shared in previous posts about the use of metaphors, not everything actually deals with death.

I also wondered why I gravitated toward this topic since High School and I discovered metaphors abound to create images that portray the feeling in the poems I write without me being conscious of it until I am through with my first draft, capturing particular words on paper or recycling them to suit my needs.

Being drawn to such themes of death doesn’t mean I prefer themes related to them or that the macabre strikes me as delectable points of view. To use the metaphor of death is to completely immerse in providing a picture of what I’m trying to communicate.

For example, the poem “California” is a personal reaction to the bad economy, being unemployed, and being alone. Poems show who we are just like a mirror reflects your image. This is how death is used as a metaphor in poetry. It is the materialization of our being that symbolizes distinctive feelings from the poet and reader alike.

Take a look at the poem here:


You have killed me

You the abomination
of my lifeless body

You have slaughtered my ambitions and
kept the souls at bay

You have scattered my remains
to the four corners of the sea
whose current would not withstand

You have cremated my amputated limbs
and crushed my soul
so the four winds blow
my ashes to nevermore

You abomination

You have killed me

Are you satisfied?

*This poem was first published on the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, Issue 52

and speaking of the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, check out the latest addition in the Fall 2015 Issue 68 where baby makes…” as it jumps right in the pool of death as metaphor theme at

Monday, December 28, 2015

Pet News 18: Dogs and Cats and all that Jazz!

Cat training is much like dog training, except it takes double the tries for the cat to do what is expected.

As always, you want to reward the good behavior you see your cat doing (and when your cat’s relaxed) and ignore the bad.

Another thing to remember is that cats are hunters and jumpers and scratchers and climbers and… well, you get it. So don’t punish them by screaming, spraying water, or holding them down aggressively.

Instead, provide alternatives. For example, a scratching post by that corner of the sofa the cat just loves to scratch would be nice. Maybe a tree house looking out into the world outside.

Also, be consistent. Reward promptly so your cat gets it.

Last, but very important, keep your cat stimulated by playing and providing toys and taking him/her for a short walk in the front or back yard on a leash.

Have a great New Year’s! Keep your pets safe…

Note: Cat training tips summarized from DK (Dorling Kindersley)’s 2014 Complete Cat Care: How to Keep your Cat Healthy and Happy