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 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and all that jazz!

Whether you celebrate or not,
everyone deserves a little break from work
to spend with family and friends or just to relax.
Maybe catch up on the various blog posts here.
Enjoy this time and don't let the Consumer Grinch steal your fun!

Peace, and love,
Maria

Monday, December 14, 2015

Books I’m Reading 19


California Poetry: From the Gold rush to the Present, edited by Dana Gioia, Chryss Yost, and Jack Hicks (2004). This is a nice collection of poets since the 1800s. It’s interesting the themes written about and how poetry has changed within a few years of each other.



The Power of Forgetting: Six essential Skills to Clear Out Brain Clutter and Become the Sharpest, Smartest You by Mike Byster. This book deals with the power of learning every day and gaining the confidence to do so by exercising your brain to focus and concentrate on what’s important with various games, activities, and patterns. His website is www.mikebyster.com



What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford, edited by Michael Wiegers. Stanford creates some vivid and strange images in his poetry it takes a while to digest the genius of his writing style, but if you like a challenge, this is the book to get your head spinning in all directions. There’s some really great poems, too.



The Postcard by Tony Abbott is a middle grade novel where the main character, Jason, discovers the truth about his grandmother after her funeral and the secrets that had harmed his father. You get the two stories of the grandmother and the boy in one book.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Short Stories & Such 21: Follow that Man

The following story is revised from the original draft written on July 17, 2012 on Writer’s Digest. The prompt dealt with following a man and I decided to make it about a vendetta-like thing. What came out was a little too strong so the revision has a new ending.

 Follow that Man 

The downtown library faced an antique shop. Neither got too many customers, but there I was, waiting for the chick who called me. Said to park up front by the book drop off at 1 p.m. So where was she?

“Hi,” a girl no older than thirteen said. She opened the door to the cab.

“Where’s your mom?” I looked through the rearview mirror.

“It’s just me.” She snarled her lips and sat right in the middle.

“Oh, yeah? I’m not the tooth fairy kid. Scram. I’m waiting for a client.”

“I’m the one who called, you jerk.” She turned her attention to the library.

“Is that so? You have money to pay for this fare?”

The girl sighed and pulled out a $50 bill. “Is this enough?” She waved it in front of my eyes.

“Okay, girly, let’s say it is.”

She pulled out another $50 bill.

I turned the engine on to start the meter. “Where’s your house?”

“That’s not where I’m going.”

“Look, I’m not pressing the metal until you tell me what you’re doing. I’m not going to jail for this.”

“You see that Mexican restaurant across the street past the lamp post? In about five minutes, a man is going to come out of that restaurant, and I want you to follow him.”

“Follow some guy from that building?” I jolted my head back. “What for?”

“Listen, for $100 bucks, do you really care?”

“You’ve got some mouth, kid, but no tamales.”

“Okay, then. You’re going to follow that man because he owes me. He owes me big for hurting my sister.”

“In what way? Not that I believe you, let’s say I’m open to anything.”

“We’re wasting time, there he is!” She pointed past my nose. Her finger almost grazed it.

Sure enough, a man in a dark gray suit and tie stepped out of the restaurant. He pulled up his sunglasses and waltzed over to his car.

“Come on! Put the metal to the pedal!”

 
 

The man in the suit survived somehow. The girl wasn’t pleased. She vented and stomped her feet. Tears streamed out of her eyes. Inside the precinct, she was questioned along with me, but in separate rooms...

“So, there I was, driving behind some guy in a silver sedan. I didn’t know how we got there.”

“Go on.”

“Well, that girly jumped out of the cab the minute I parked behind him. She ran toward the guy and stabbed him several times. It was unbelievable. She was like, eleven or something.”

“Do you know what the motive was?”

“All she kept repeating was that he would pay for what he did.” I looked up at the detective. The light from above hit me like a boxer’s punch.

The detective nodded to the officer by the door and they brought in the girl.

“Is this him?”

“Yeah. He raped my sister.

I bolted off my seat and opened my mouth when I spotted the guy in the dark gray suit drinking coffee. A wide smile smeared his face.

 

If you’re interested in the original draft and any comments, take a look at http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/follow-that-man   (see under July 16, 2012)




Note:

Two of my poems were published on the Fall-Winter issue of Sleet! You can check Featured Poet and Welcome at www.Sleetmagazine.com. You have to scroll down from the astronaut to the Poetry section. I’m the first one listed!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Teaching News 3

Here’s a little list of things I’ve compiled throughout the years to remember when being around your own children or if you work with children. It might not be a complete list, but it’s a start!
 

The 6 Best News to Give your Child

  1. I Love You
  2. I appreciate your help
  3. You’re special
  4. I’m Sorry
  5. You can do it
  6. Each step counts

 
The 6 Must Do’s in Discipline

  1. Never yell or belittle your child
  2. Provide choices
  3. Listen
  4. Acknowledge them
  5. Teach self-regulation
  6. Make them feel safe and loved

 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Writer’s Workshop 14: The Pick-Me List

During a workshop on Character Building at the Mt. SAC Writer’s Weekend led by Martin Lastrapes, we were asked to make a list of character traits to begin building our character. Then, we had to choose three of the traits and write the introduction to this character for our story.

The idea was to have details to describe the character to avoid writing flat characters. This helps add dimension to our writing. I found the exercise interesting and I liked what came out of it.

The following was the list I had and the bold type words in the paragraph are the chosen words for this character I built.

 
smelled nice
tall
open-toe shoes
cleavage
shoulder length hair
married
High School education
honest
loyal with friends and family

  

She always smelled like she just stepped out of the shower, the lingering scent of soap intermingled with expensive perfume, similar to the kind you find once you step into JC PENNY’s or VICTORIA’S SECRET at the mall.

She liked the mall, but preferred outside flea markets where you could haggle the price with the vendors. She always got a fair deal, especially if a man got a glimpse of her cleavage.

It was a priority to leave the house exposing “her babies.” It was also the one trait that got her in trouble. She was never the kind to flirt or sleep with other men, but her marriage had started breaking after 30 years and when he walked into her life, she embraced it, and looked forward to their intimate meetings. Little did she know that they would be short lived…


 
p.s. Have a nice Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Art 7: Blue Sketch



One of the assignments in my previous art class was to sketch everywhere we went. On the bus, waiting at the park, sitting at a restaurant, etc. One of those sketches I did in blue ink using a fine point pen, then, painting over it with watercolor for shading.

This was a sketch of myself (the back) and of a friend (facing forward). The effect turned out well and I decided to share it with all of you. Hope you enjoy it!


Monday, November 9, 2015

Writing Endeavors 10: Death as Metaphor Poetry

I was just notified that two of my poems were accepted and published on Jupiter Artland Foundation’s Inspired to Write Poetry and Prose Competition. The winners will be chosen on January 16th in England, but I’m entered!

There were a lot of entries to this UK poetry competition. When you visit the site, it asks that you scroll to the bottom and click on LOAD 20 MORE POSTS to get to the next ones. You have to click about three or four times to see my first poem and then, again, to see the second poem.

These were ekphrastic poems in which I choose an artwork that inspired me. I chose STROKE by Anya Gallaccio (a bench at the center of an empty room) for My Thoughts and I chose BROKEN by Jessica Harrison (porcelain statues dressed in 17th century garb who were dismembered in some way) for Porcelain Hearts.

These poems turned out to be examples of how I used death as a metaphor to write them. It was a lot of fun and I’m grateful to Jupiter Artland for accepting them. I hope you enjoy reading the other great poetry, too!

Here’s the website:

Monday, November 2, 2015

Quote 16

“Strength does not come from physical capacity.

It comes from indomitable will.”

-Jawharial Nehru

 
This quote reminds me of that famous adage: if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Having ‘will’ has nothing to do with how you look or how much muscle you have.

It’s about wanting to do something and doing it.

It’s about perseverance, patience, understanding, competence, love…

The strength comes from the love needed to do what is asked of us.

Sometimes, we ask ourselves to do something.

At other times, we are asked to do something.

Our physical capacity to do something might play a role in completing a task, but it does not hinder our mental capacity to figure out a way to finish it.

It’s like that jelly jar that’s so hard to open with arthritic hands.

You don’t stop because it’s impossible, you ask for help or you buy a special jar opener or you buy the jelly in another container easier to use.

If there’s a way to do something, then we will find the best way possible to do it.
 
You don't give up. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Why I Write 9: Just Write

I write because I must. Simple as that. I wanted to provide a more definite answer, but what it comes down to is whether I enjoy writing. Do I see myself making tons of money from all the hours I spend writing? I don’t know. Everyone wants to feel secure for the future, but I’m not going to gloat and say I’m a great writer when writing is really a craft that matures as we practice it.

I come from a background in teaching and I know how important it is to practice what you preach… to put your foot down and learn from the years prior to make the following one better. It’s a never-ending cycle to keep honing those skills necessary to do the job well. Writing is the same. You have to keep at it in order to reap the benefits. Sometimes, it takes a long time to feel those benefits, but they’re going to be there as long as we persevere.

So, let’s take some time from our busy schedules and write… write about that woman in the store… write about that man in his orange cruiser… write about the mosquitos attacking us… just write.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Short Stories & Such 21: Skeleton in your Closet - Literally


Hi everyone! Here’s a fun story just in time for Halloween. Hope you enjoy!

 
Skeleton in your Closet – Literally

The thumping in my head got louder and louder and I strained to open my eyes. I rose from the bed with a heavy head that could have rolled off my neck if it wasn’t that I brought my knuckles to massage my temples. I groaned. Last night’s party was such a blur. Ooh, my poor head. At least I made it back to my apartment in one piece. A good shower should help get rid of the vomit smell and, then, I could head out for some nice breakfast. Especially coffee. Lots of coffee.

I took slow steps toward the closet to see what I could wear today, but when I opened it, I screamed so loud, my ribs cracked.

“What the f**** is that?”

The skeleton just plopped itself against the closet wall. My things had been spread apart already so I could see it. The bony hands dangled on its sides and there was faint yellow coloring around its surface.

Did I put it there? I couldn’t have brought back this…. this thing. I lifted it from where it propped and I’d say it weighed less than a poodle. But, what was it doing here? Was this a prank?

Wait a minute, wait a minute. Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe this. I did know how this got here. Where’s my roommate? Where was Maggie?

Her cell kept sending me to voicemail and her Facebook page didn’t mention anything from last night.

“Hmmm… I wonder.”

I set the skeleton back against the closet’s wall and examined it further. The head of this skeleton had a slight dent on the right side of the skull. I remembered feeling Maggie’s hair when I last cut it. This had the same type of hollowness.

“Maggie?”

The skull turned toward me. Gasping, I stepped back.

The bony arms lifted up and I was suddenly in its grip.

“Maggie, wake up! Kuhhsh. It’s me, culff… Jemma.”

 

This short story was written back on June 26, 2012 from the Writer’s Digest prompt with the same title. You can see the original and check out any comments at
http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/skeleton-in-your-closest-literally

Monday, October 12, 2015

Death as Metaphor 20: Personal Poetry Reflection and Analysis II

in dreams, fear the music
moonlight darkens

 
Another aspect of death I use is in the prevention of it. However, this is impossible since one cannot escape death. My poetry visions of death change depending on what I feel are important in my life.
 
Death can be an emotional experience that crushes your heart in two. It is not the death of my body but, the death of my conscious mind, the death of losing something in me or from someone that has affected me in such a way that it feels like I am dead; the walking corpse in time that is unable to deal with the loss or pain or feeling.

John Ashbery (1981) wrote in his poem, “Paradoxes and Oxymorons,”  (http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/users/m/morillo/public/pando.htm) that the poem is what maps out its direction as being open-ended and intuitive writing. The poet is thus the vessel and yet, the poem is part of you, your thoughts and feelings.

I find that my poetry stems from some dark thinking as a way of expressing what’s inside me through metaphorical words of death. Sometimes I do not comprehend fully why I choose certain words to go together and how death plays out in the poem.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Art 6: The Sitting Nude in Quietude


 

                                 

This piece was done in charcoal during my first year in a Life Drawing class. It was the first time doing a male model and he tended to do awkward poses. I managed to get this simple one, though.
Other than the head needing some work, I like the way the shoulders add motion to the piece. The neck area is also an area I focused on and thought it came out well. I hope you enjoyed looking at this piece. I call it the Sitting Nude in Quietude.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pet News 17: To be a dog or nOT?


“Dogs don’t consider any of their behaviors as a problem- humans do. Dogs are perfect at being dogs. If there are ‘problems,’ don’t allow the dog to keep practicing them.”

---Lynette Tatay
A while back I wrote about how we shouldn’t stress about our dogs not being perfect. This quote reminded me that it is the guardians (us) responsibility to make sure our pets don’t get into problems and to keep them safe.

For example, let's say you used to allow your pet to jump on the sofa, but when you got a new one, you vowed to stop the behavior. However, your pet had other ideas. Jumping up was okay before, so why not now? They don’t know if the sofa is brand new, only that it’s another comfy place to be. As a responsible guardian, we should provide a comforter for our pet, either on the sofa or off, but the best option should be to prevent this behavior in the first place.

Here’s another scenario: your pet loves to dig diG DIG! But your yard is taking a toll. Your dog doesn’t think this is a problem. Digging holes provides a place that’s cool when it’s hot. What we should do is prevent them from digging anywhere they please. Teach them to dig at a specified location instead of at random places.

Trust me. I went through trial and error on this one. My dog would dig holes everywhere and it was getting dangerous to walk on my yard. So, I had two holes be the main outlets for his behavior and it stopped him from wrecking the yard anywhere else. Thus, I let him be a dog.

So Tatay’s suggestion to not allow our pets to practice certain behaviors hits the mark. Help your pet learn their manners and they’ll love you for it.

 

 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Teaching Moments 2

The Skin that We Speak is a book edited by Lisa Delpit and Joanne Kilgour Dowdy (2002). It features articles by individuals who have experienced a language barrier, language racism, or have conducted research in language.

Language is part of the culture and a very important part of our daily lives. So much so that the way we speak may be different from conventional norms. However, that shouldn’t make us inferior or deemed unable to learn.

Reading and writing are two different skills and if we want students to learn them, we need to accept them as they are. The way they speak is not wrong. We need to teach them the standards of what we do in X setting, such as work or school, versus Y setting, such as at home, with family and friends.

If we make it okay to speak the way they do, we make it possible for them to learn how to play, what the authors in the book refer to, the language game.

It’s just like when you enter the theatre to watch a play versus to hear a concert or when you attend a wedding versus a karaoke party. The rules change and students need to learn them in order to be successful in the different settings.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Books I’m Reading 18

The Aunt Lute Anthology of U.S. Women Writers, Volume 1 and 2.

Good Housekeeping’s Clutter Rescue! Just Minutes a day to get organized- forever! It contains money saving tips and ideas to get your home or office organized.
 
Eruv by Eryn Green is a book of poetry. The poems have a different format and style which makes you want to re-read them for meaning and each time, it changes your view of the poem. Quite interesting.

Olympians, Aphrodite: Goddess of Love by George O’Connor is a graphic novel with an interesting way of presenting the goddess.

check out more at www.olympiansrule.com
 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Happy Labor Day!


Hope you’re enjoying the day and if there’s a reading itch on vacation, feel free to read the previous posts and I’ll get back to you next week!

And if you haven’t got a chance to read my poem, Before my Commute, published in the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, Summer Issue 67, this would be the best time!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Writer’s Workshop 13: Dialoguing Stories

In one workshop, we had to use only dialogue to write a scene. It’s actually a good exercise if you’re trying to differentiate the voice of your characters.

I’ve used this technique in some of my writing. I write the dialogue and, then, I add the description. It helps when you’re pressed for time and want to get the story down, too.

Try it and see what you get.

Prompt- Have two people talking to each other about something that’s bothering them or other issue without adding facial expressions or descriptions. The idea is to get their voices to guide the reader to what’s going on.

Here’s my attempt:

 

“I’m glad I caught you.”

“I can’t talk right now.”

“Don’t give me that.”

Silence.

“You and I both know why you’ve been avoiding me.”

“That’s not true.”

“Then, explain to me why you don’t return my phone calls?”

“I…”

“When I congratulated you on your birthday, I didn’t even get a ‘Thank you’ or happy face texted back.”

Silence.

“Are you still there?”

“That’s not fair…”

“You bet it isn’t…We both know why you’ve been doing this and why, you, all of a sudden, got pregnant by your husband.”

“I have to go.”

“You’re in love with me.”

“Stop it.”

“That’s why you stopped seeing me, calling me… you name it.”

“You’re crazy.”

“Am I? Then why can’t you stand being in the same room as me? I mean, you used to make it a point to hang out with me almost every weekend. You said you couldn’t get enough. You said you loved me.”

“Stop it! I love my husband.”

“Do you? Because last time we spoke, you couldn’t remember his name. Why don’t you stop pretending and admit it?”

“I love my husband.”

“Admit it.”

“I can’t… I’m gonna have another baby. Little Christopher’s four now, and he can’t be around you.”

“What!?! Don’t you dare—”

Click.

 
 

BTW got my poem, Before my Commute, published in the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, Summer Issue 67 (psst… you have to scroll almost all the way down to read it=))

Monday, August 24, 2015

Quote 15

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
-Henry Ford
It’s all about attitude.

Sometimes, I hear “I can’t” a lot from students when I’m substituting and I remember that nothing is impossible. There might be need of a little guidance and a little support, but if you think you can do something, it will happen.

I’ve seen adults say they can’t do something when they haven’t tried such as using some form of social media or learning a new skill for a job. Again, nothing is impossible.

It’s the right attitude about learning how to do something or getting started on a project or other. I thought I’d never complete my supernatural detective novel, but I did! I’m so excited. Now, the hard part starts: write the synopsis and edit, revise, edit, revise… and one day it’ll be in print. The question is: do I have the right attitude to say I can? I think so =)

 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Death as Metaphor 19: Personal Poetry Reflection and Analysis

A meaningless life protrudes

from an absence of death.

7-11-10

Death has been rampant throughout history, and individuals react to it in various ways that help the poem evolve into meaningful reminders of it.

I have a collection of poems that make use of death metaphorically to express different feelings, events, and thoughts. The poems do not follow any particular structure. Some are not pertinent to my own life but the lives of others or things around me, including dreams. Each poem delves into the concept that death is not just a literal meaning in which everything ends; death is usually thought of as somber and peaceful.

I have discovered that death is a symbol for something much greater because it constitutes the end of something important. It could be a friendship, a love, a feeling, a change of one’s identity such as a rebirth, and much more. Death is an important metaphor for authors to explore the deepest emotions possible in a way that touches the reader on different levels through imagery.

Here is an example of how death is used as a metaphor by Adrienne Rich, which differs from my poetry, but that hints on the rebirth process:

In 1971, Rich commented in a poetics essay, “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision,” (http://www.nbu.bg/webs/amb/american/5/rich/writing.htm) that women should share their imagination and experience through writing by looking back at things and their lives with new eyes. She considers women ‘dead’ in a male-dominated society until the woman ‘awakens’ from her victimization and expresses her anger through writing and we are able to use poems as windows to our world.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Short Stories & Such 20: Leaving Town Abruptly

Leaving Town Abruptly

 
The rasp sound extended from the kitchen door causing the wood to crease and moan in my bedroom. I wrapped a blanket around my pajamas. 3:30 a.m. The darkness guided me to the first obstacle: the clothes hamper and then, the leg of the chair. After some fumbling for a light switch, the rasp turned into a pound until the moron outside went for the doorbell.

“Aaron, pack a bag.”

“Jerry!”

“Quickly.” She pushed me back inside the house until my back hit the door knob. “I have to get out of here now.”

“What? Where?”

Her eyes were erratic, I was sure she didn’t hear any of my questions.

She clasped her tiny hands on my blanket, “I need you to come with me.”

I yanked her hands free of the blanket, “Now, wait a minute. You don’t think I’m going to just drop everything and leave?”

“I think you will…but you need to get ready while I explain.”

“I’m not going to do anything until-”

“Fine,” she brushed her long bangs off her face. “My husband found out. About us.”

“Us?”

“He’s coming after me.”

“Us? I don’t get it.”

“I told him I was having an affair… with you.”

“You what!?! You told that maniac you were….why?” I threw the blanket over the kitchen counter. I rubbed the hairs growing in my sideburns.

“There’s no time. Get your things together.”

“His after you. Why should I bother?”

“If he thinks you were my lover, he’ll be looking for you, too.” She cupped her hands in her face and sniffled, “I’m sorry. I was trying to give him some his own medicine.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “Jerry, we need to talk to him.”

She lifted her face, now smeared with mascara.

“Okay… I’ll talk to him. He couldn’t possibly believe-”

“You don’t understand, he’s got a rifle.”

A sudden thud came from the front door. Every ounce of hope attached itself to me, professing it was the wind. As I turned to the direction of the sound, a burst of light flashed before my eyes.

 

Check out the original draft and comments for June 5, 2012 at http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/leaving-town-abruptly

Monday, August 3, 2015

Books I’m Reading 17

Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones is a poetry collection. Jones has a strong voice and most themes deal with race, gender, and life.


A Poet’s Ear: A Handbook of Meter and Form by Annie Finch is a detailed book about writing poetry along with examples of the different forms described. She has a website, too.
 

Ageing Backwards by Miranda Esmonde-White. The author explains a lot about using our muscles to do the exercises. What she recommends will help you get stronger, limber, and feel younger. She combines a lot of stretches and dance movements.

 
Clean, well-lighted sentences: A Guide to Avoiding the Most Common Errors in Grammar and Punctuation by Janis Bell. This book explains a lot of the rules in a comprehensive format that’s easy to read. Of course, practice is key to mastering everything Bell points out.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Art 5: The Nude Back


It’s been many years ago I drew this. It was a Life Drawing class where I learned a lot about the human body and drawing techniques. Though, my writing keeps me away from drawing, I still enjoy doing it when I get the chance.

The Nude Back is of a male model using charcoal. After doing some five minute sketches, I was able to draw this. I think it still needs some work, but it’s the best one from the group of drawings I did!