Monday, April 30, 2012

I Thought I Drowned -- by KittyCat

Dad’s home now. He went on a fishing trip, a good ten-hour drive from our house. He said he’d caught lots of fish. When he caught catfish, he threw them back in the water. Since I’m his best buddy, I guess he couldn’t bring himself to eat something called CATfish, so he only kept crappy fish. He even brought some home in plastic freezer bags. All cut up, you can’t tell they’re crappy, so when Dad has a fish fry, Mom won’t know them from store-bought ones.

I kinda wanted to go, too, but I’m also kinda scared of water. Maybe it’s cuz around here we’re just not used to it. I mean real water, like in real lakes (I’ve never seen one) with fish swimming in them. Ha, ha. Most the fish I’ve seen don’t move, much less swim. They’re inside-out and spread with herbs and butter where their innards were. They’re dead. --Can smell that way pretty quick, too.

Our water mostly comes out of taps or garden hoses or sprinklers. Some pop up from the ground. No kidding—it’s now you see it, now you don’t. A few years ago, in my case it was feel it.

I’d seen birds in the yard next door. I crept over there, hidden by a bush, ready to charge. Wham! I’m whacked hard, right in my belly. All wet underneath I just knew I was bleeding to death. I took a step. I saw I was trapped in a circle of water rushing up from the thing that murdered me.

I just gotta make it to my own chair on my own porch, I thought. I ran through the torture trap, across the lawn to my house and climbed into my chair. I lay there all wet and shivering, wishing I hadn’t pestered Mom so much, especially sorry for pulling her hair at 5 AM to wake her up. I closed my eyes remembering what fun I’d had with Dad and a strange, bouncing red dot I chased and chased, but never caught. I felt more miserable than a beer-drinking snail.

Next thing I knew, Dad was on the porch with his morning coffee, his newspaper not open yet. He was offering me treats. I slid off the chair. Still sleepy, everything came slowly. No blood? I’m alive. The chair’s dry. I’m dry. Ha, ha. I’m not even hurt from all that water.

A bit of water is not bad. Maybe next year I’ll go with Dad. So he’ll know he can keep them, I’ll take a bite from the first catfish hanging on his line, and he can leave the crappy fish for the guys out in the other boats.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Writer’s Affirmations from A to Z

Writers spend long hours on research and before a computer screen. Alone. The mail arrives. Another rejection. Sometimes we need a boost.

Hopefully Affirmations from A to Z will give you a lift. Record it just as it is, or modify it to make it more personally yours. Then, listen to it daily. 
Ten minutes of self-talk will not fast forward you to your publication goals, but it will help you stay on track.

A Writer's Affirmations from A to Z

I am able adept animate. I alleviate negatives with positive affirmations. I appreciate my attributes, and attain greater confidence each time I mentally list my aptitudes, achievements, and admirable qualities. Allied with that kind of thinking, I anticipate abundance and always feel blessed,
        I easily befriend others, and never belittle anyone's efforts. In that same spirit, I've become more benign toward myself, believing that we each should be our own best buddy.
I am considerate never caustic. Why concentrate on petty concerns? Pettiness kills creativity. Better to work conscientiously and confidently,
I demand much of myself and demonstrate diligence in my work. I dig for facts, doggedly follow leads in pursuit of accurate details. I also delight in discovery of ideas, especially those which seem to arise from the depths of my own mind. I dare to dream
        When I earn less than expected, or enthusiasm's a bit flattened, I reject feelings of failure. I embrace thoughts of faith and visualize a future of fulfillment and financial gratification.
A good quote to follow is "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." I am going, growing and glowinggrateful even for life's gullies. They heighten the hilltops we reach.
        I am happy, forever hopeful. Never hampered by confusion between self-esteem and humility, I know healthy egos are okay so long as we do not assume we are the center of humanity.
Strong emotional health helps me be industrious and innovative. Furthermore, a hopeful, optimistic mindset is infectious, producing an uplifting impact on everyone, so with joy I keep affirming the positive. That's the key to a lustrous life, and someday perhaps, a luminous literary career.
Liberated from past negatives, I like myself. I've learned always to feel fully alive. A multi-faceted person, I admit to bits of mediocrity balanced by areas of mastery. Yes, I make mistakes, and I make amends. That's maturity.
        Whether my writing is considered noteworthy or not, my ego isn't nurtured nor is my self-worth nullified by the opinions of others.
        I optimize opportunity, prioritize my work, and ply my trade with persistence. I push for perfection, but do it with a peaceful heart.
        I quietly strive for quality in my work, mindful of a quintessential rule: rudimentary ideas must not be wrenched from their roots. I relax, reflect, give them room to grow, and then record them.
        Similarly, I see life's problems in terms of solutions that will surface in their own time. Thus, subordinate issues never sidetrack me.
        Success takes more than talent. I am tenacious. I attend to one chore at a time, unaffected by distractions.    Unabashed, I relish victories mine and those of my friends. Of ultimate value, however, is love of those friends, and family.
I praise God for a sense of well-being, a life that is well-balanced, and altogether worthwhile.
        Every day I review affirmations. Yes, infused with positive thoughts, my muse and I arise each morning determined to make the day extraordinary and to close it with a zinger.

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Open up and Swallow Fast -- by KittyCat

I was too pooped to write yesterday. Sophie, my favorite dog friend, stayed with us at Easter and then came again on Wednesday. She didn’t leave until yesterday afternoon, and I didn't get a good nap the whole time she was here. We’d be out in the yard enjoying quiet friendship, and just as I’d nod off, she’d find something to bark at—a bird, a squirrel, people out walking their dogs, and even moths.

Yup moths. And I’ve been chasing those big fuzzy moths that are all of a sudden around by the thousands.

This morning Mom, drinking coffee on the porch with Dad told him they must keep a camera handy. I had just caught one. “Too cute,” she said, then almost choking on her coffee, she said, “KittyCat, that’s disgusting.”

“What?” Dad asked. He’d been watching a squirrel chittering at me from an elm tree branch.

“He ate it!” she shrieked.

I’m licking my chops, but Mom looks like she just swallowed bird droppings.

“Golly gee, my mom can see,” I want to say, “I’m kin to the great cats. Y’ think my savanna cousins eat canned kitty kibbles”?

As I ambled toward the backyard, I wondered if Dad would tell Mom that she’s eaten tons of insects. A government guy on TV last year said insect parts were in lots of foods—chocolate (mom’s favorite), peanut butter, mustard, and ketchup, even Heinz.

Wish I could talk human. Next time Mom and Dad had a bar-b-q, I’d just watch while Mom did all that work. Then just when she sat down and got ready to take a bite ... Ha, ha, I could get her so freaked out.

By summer, the moths will be gone, but you know what they say about flies coming to a picnic. Tasty or not, betcha I can have all kinds of fun with them.

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Grammar Point: The Apostrophe

A group I meet with has decided to review one point in grammar per week. The word apostrophe begins with  the letter a, so it's a good place to start our grammar review. Besides, a high school student asked me about apostrophes last week.

We speak of grammar rules, but grammatical standards is a more precise term, and for students, perhaps a little less intimidating than the word rule. As mentioned in my article Squeaking Chalk on the Blackboard, certain so-called rules may be accepted by one group and not another. And, like our language, styles can change over time. If I were a teenager, I believe that little fact would make me feel better about English classes. "On whose authority do you make that statement?" I could ask.

We learn best by starting with what we know. The apostrophe is...

...well, you know what it is, right? It is a punctuation mark that used to look like comma but it's placement was just above the lowercase letter was it placed next to. Now, on most keyboards the same punctuation  mark ( ' ) is used for the apostrophe and single quotation mark.

Think of it as a signal. It has three main functions:
  1. To indicate possession of nouns.
  2. To signal that letters are left out of a word. 
  3. To prevent confusion for readers who encounter certain plurals.
ONE: The apostrophe signals or indicates possession of a noun.

  • That toy mouse belongs to KittyCat. That is KittyCat's toy mouse. 
    • (Note: write the noun, then an apostrophe followed by the letter s.)
What if the words toy mouse are not stated?
  • Don't discard that grungy toy mouse; it is KittyCat's.
    • (Note: write it as described above, because toy mouse is understood and does not need to be repeated. 
But what happens if KittyCat must share ownership of the toy mouse with other cats?
  • That toy mouse belongs to the cats. That is the cats' toy mouse.
    • (Note: write the plural noun; then add the apostrophe. Do not add an extra s.
What if the cats who share the mouse are named?
  • That mouse belongs to Snook and KittyCat. It is Snook and KitttyCat's.
    • (To help you remember, think of a similar usage, as we went to John and Mary's last night.)
 And if they don't share an item? 
  • Snook's and KittyCat's food are labeled. They do not share because KittyCat is on a diet. 
TWO: The apostrophe is used for a contraction. That is, it takes place of letters left out of a word.

  • We are leaving now. We're leaving now.
    • (Note: similarly the following are correct: they're for they are she's for she is, and so forth)
Question: Why do teachers sometimes bleed over words like its, they're, we're and others?
Half answer: The issue probably deals with homonyms and homophones. Think: if you could write "he is," then he's is acceptable in informal English. Similarly, use we're for we are, they'll for they will. and so forth.

THREE: The apostrophe is used in certain plurals to prevent confusion for the reader.

  • In cursive writing, if you fail to cross the letter t, it looks like the letter l. If you don't cross your t's, they look like l's
    • (Note: without the apostrophe, a ts or ls looks like a misspelled word.) 
What if you are talking about uppercase letters?

  • He knew his ABCs by age three. 
    • (Note: when letters are capitalized, there should be no confusion for the reader, so the apostrophe is not necessary.)
Websites: Put the word apostrophe in your search box, and you will find plenty of information by grammarians who do not always agree with one another. I think students will like because it is fun to read. When learning's (or learning is) fun, it's (or it is) easier to remember what you read.

Warning: the apostrophe explanation is good, but elsewhere on that particular site, however, I find the language offensive.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Two Thousand-Plus Awards and Still Counting

“Welcome to the world of rhyming poetry.” The greeting that invites the readers to browse through features a picture of an animated waterfall. Listen to the water splash when you read her eloquent poem placed beneath it.

Like sequined strands of shimmered cashmere shawl,
Cascading drops of silvered waterfall
Cast rippling waves that wind through crystal stream
To spread like wistful wishes in a dream.

A popular speaker at writers’ workshops, Marianne McNeil Logan has won over two thousand contest awards. Although I’ve never heard her introduced as poet and artist, Marianne’s original illustrations adorn several of her chapbooks I purchased from her.

Her collection, Moments in Mourning, brings soothing words to the desolate who grieve for a loved one who is terminally ill or has recently passed. But along with lyrical sentiments, cries of grief and anger at the unexpected stages that must be endured erupt from the pages with complete honesty.

If certain pages of her website show slight neglect, it is because much of Marianne’s time is now spent caring for her second husband, Claude, who is under Hospice Home Care.

My preferences lean to Marianne’s descriptions of our awesome world, written with beautiful words that both paint pictures and ring with music, especially when they are read aloud. When her publisher announced the press release for Sounds of the Seasons, I deemed it a good time to trumpet Marianne McNeil Logan’s accomplishments.

She also has Celebrations for Sonneteers on Kindle, which won three national prizes: Crossroads National Poetry Book Contest, Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. “Pegasus” award for a Book of Poetry, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Experienced poets will understand why the book stands as a reason to celebrate the sonnet and to applaud Marianne’s expertise as a sonneteer. The book shows fifteen different sonnet patterns, explaining formats and rhyme schemes. Marianne said, “it is ideal for poetry chapters interested in learning new patterns, and for poets wanting to learn more about sonnets, a very special part of poetry.”

Below is the press release for Sounds of the Seasons. Marianne feels it will be her favorite book. Many of the most descriptive poems are of her beloved Black Hills and the Texas Panhandle.

Press Release
Rhyming Poems for
Nature Lovers

The newest Kindle eBook by
Marianne McNeil Logan
from Path Publishing  for only $2.99!

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download it free onto
your computer from

The book’s INTRODUCTION: I love nature poems, and was delighted when Alex Stewart of New Horizon Poets invited me to be one of the four poets to be published in their annual publication  Timeless Shores . I hope you’ll like the other favorites I’ve picked out to go along with those in Sounds of the Seasons, my part of their book. I also love humor, so I picked a couple of special memories of what my twin sister and our younger sis did when we were kids. Then, too, I love sonnets, as you know, and there are several beautifully descriptive nature sonnets. I’ve also included haiku, cinquains, and triolets, which I hope you’ll like, too.
All of my longer poems are in rhyme, which seems to be a disappearing gift in our free verse, fast-moving world of today. I like to sprinkle lots of picturesque images and alliteration through my work. Hope you find some “ah-hahs!” that you enjoy, too.

How to purchase this nature-lovers book: Go to home page. On the left click on “Books.” Then click on “Kindle Books.” Type in the name of the book (or copy and paste) and click on the title or “Kindle Edition.”  

A well-known rhyming poet, Marianne has won over 2,000 poetry contest awards! Three of her chapbooks have garnered five national awards, two receiving Pulitzer Prize nominations. To find out more about her many chapbooks, visit her website, which shows the prices and awards at, e-mail, or write to 2700 S. Roosevelt, Amarillo Texas 79103. Add $1.50 for postage for the first book and 90 cents for each additional; Texans need to add sales tax of 8.25 percent.

To contact the publisher: Path Publishing, 4302 SW 51st #121, Amarillo, Texas 79109-6159; 877-PATH-877 (1-877-7284-877) or (806) 322-7007  call before 6 PM Central Time;

Monday, April 16, 2012

Going Fishing -- by KittyCat

I got excited a few weeks back cuz Dad and I were going fishing—a short day trip to make sure his stuff all worked just right before he went on a long trip.

Mom thinks boats are made to sit in and read without being bothered by the telephone. She reads weird books when we’re supposed to be out having fun. Like that very day, she had a book open. It was about house parts. Boring, right? It gets worse. The very top of a page said in big letters “Functions of Carpet.” Sheesh—you can bet even a stupid dog like Stooee knows carpets are made for snoozing when folks are hogging the furniture.

Anyhow, I gave Dad a special fishing knife last year for Father’s Day. It’s called an electric fillet knife, but you don’t even have to plug it into anything. All Dad has to do is hold a fish by the tail, and toss the scraps to me when he turns the knife off.

“Raw fish,” Mom said one day… Well, you don’t want to know what she said, or much less what Dad said after that.

So we were almost ready for our day trip, and Mom yelled at me. “KittyCat! Get out of there.”

I wasn’t IN there. I would never never get in a tub of water. I was just looking over the side of the tub Dad had filled with little fish.

“We’ll see you at supper, Dear,” Mom said to Dad. “KittyCat and I are staying home. He’ll just be a bother.”

“OK,” Dad gave her a little "see you later" kiss, pretending to be cheerful.

But I felt sorry for him. He’d gone to all that work to get me a tub full of little fish so I could catch them while he caught big fish.

Mom just doesn't understand guy fun.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mullions, Oriels, and Irascible Harridans

"Hilarious," said one review. It described the British author of eleven best-selling novels as "sharp-witted" and one who gives satire "an extra bite."

I chose the paperback expecting to get a two-for-one from it. I planned to use it to exemplify the structure of novels for a new writer. And for me? Well, who can't use more humor in their life? It turns out I gained neither from reading my selection. I'm too reserved to recommend a book filled with vulgarities.

On the other hand, the author proved, by her facility with language, that she had cut her teeth in writing before she gained the moniker, novelist.

The following is a sampling of words she used that helped balance terms I found offensive. If half of the list puzzles you, squeeze more reading into your schedule.

  1. Burnishing
  2. Cantilevered
  3. Duvet
  4. Encomium
  5. Harridan
  6. Incipient
  7. Irascible
  8. Maladroit
  9. Mullion
  10. Oriel
  11. Pneumatic
  12. Proffer
  13. Rheumy
  14. Simper
  15. Unguent
Do you need help building your facility with words? Check out It's a neat site.

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Happy Easter Weekend -- by KittyCat

On Easter Monday, some folks get a day off, but at our house, it’s plain old Monday. Snook said Mom is self-employed, so she doesn’t get money if she doesn’t work. Heck, I know for sure, most of the time she doesn't get any money when she does work.

Snook’s mom, my Aunt Pen doesn’t get paid. Nobody in her office gets paid, and they all work double, cuz it’s hard to find people to work for nothing. And then there’s this office near us where the government pays people who say they want to work, but don’t. I don’t get it.

Anyhow Easter holiday weekend started Friday, and my friend Sophie, the only dog I know about my size, stayed with us. Sophie’s mom forgot to pack toys. Sophie and I chased a golf ball around for a time, but then all of a sudden Sophie sat down and wouldn’t play anymore. She likes to chew on her toys, and when she bit into it, its innards made snapping sounds, and bit her right back. Then she barked at that ball while giving it a good kick. Next she ran to the door, terrified, cuz the ball kept snapping and jumping a bit like it had gremlins.

Friday night was fun, too. I hardly ever get to stay outside after dark, but Mom and Dad were late getting to an art show, so didn’t take time to put me in the house. I chased birds from three yards, but at dark, I headed for my porch chair cuz Doggie was out again.

Oh, I found out about Doggie. His (not her) real name is Stooee, or Stuy, or something like that. Don’t  know why they didn’t name him Squeegee so you can find it in a dictionary and spell it right.

I guess nobody told the mutt you’re sposed to be good on Good Friday, and he barked at a little girl. That got her dad upset, cuz the little girl started crying.

 Next, here came the animal police driving real slow down our street, and around the alley, and then parked in front of our house for a long time. Makes you wonder if they knew it was Good Friday, cuz hauling dogs to jail for barking doesn’t seem like a very nice thing to do. Maybe the dog catchers were all ticked cuz they had to work while some folks got paid for not working that day.

When Mom took Sophie for a walk on Saturday, I went along. She let Sophie run back and forth by a wooden fence and annoy Devon, a real big puppy that lives near us. You could tell how Devon wanted out of the yard so badly. If she had, it would’ve taken half the neighborhood to fence her again. Devon flunked out of dog training school. I think it was on purpose, cuz she outsmarts people trying to catch her. She sits, tail wagging til they get close, then takes off running, sitting again just out of reach. There’s no fun like watching flustered humans.

Cat’s training has fancier name, so costs more money. The vet suggested Mom take me to one, but Dad said anybody who’d put good money out for a cat shrink needs to see one themselves.

Sunday wasn’t so fun for me, cuz Sophie went home, but it was kinda funny—well maybe not for Mom. Dad went to church with her, so they took his truck. In church Mom got sick from a pill that’s sposed to make a person better. Figure that one. Anyhow, on the way home she actually puked. Glad it was in Dad’s truck, cuz when I have to go somewhere its usually in Mom’s car.

At home, she went to sleep for a bit, and then was squeezed for time to get supper ready. No big deal, usually, but Easter Sunday is always company day, so supper is at a certain time. Everybody ended up bringing their own food, sort of. Mom got fried chicken and ice-cream, She served it with letter-shaped cookies that read “Happy Easter.” 

Even if we didn’t get Monday included in our holiday weekend, all in all, it was a Happy Easter weekend.

(c) 2012 Bernice W. Simpson

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Living Stones"

Here on Easter weekend, when thoughts turn to renewal of our spiritual lives, of the greening of our land, of refreshing rain, and life-yielding soil, I can’t look at a rock and see only an innate object. From pinhead-sized grains of stone to high mountains, they are dynamic and to me represent the substance of the planet that allows organisms to thrive.

The epitome of summer, the sand we love to sink our toes into at the water’s edge has a far greater importance than giving us joy. In our gardens it prevents soil from packing too firmly; thus facilitates the growth of plant roots and the flow of air in the soil. Sand is not alive, and its usefulness rarely given a thought. But what is used to produce the glass jug that contains ice-water, so welcome on a hot day? –Rock decomposed into sand.

It is little wonder the Bible is full of references to rock, stones, and sand. As it does today, rock had practical applications; it was abundant, and rare specimens were valued for their beauty.

But most rocks are nondescript—simply hard masses of compressed minerals, usually neutral in color, and dull. Yet, I can imagine Jesus and His disciples reaching down now and again to pick up a stone along the roads or lakeside because it stood out from those around it. I look at rocks in our travels or in pictures and sense a connection—a kind of lifeline—to those days, to our shared world, however changed, it consists of the same basic materials.

 My travel souvenirs are cheap (or were before airlines charged for checked bags). My favorites are fossilized rocks containing imprints of ancient life forms, and fossilized tree branches, their cells so completely silicated that the bark still looks like wood from a recently-felled tree.

I wonder about the plants that once grew in the variegated layers of certain stratified rock, and how many microscopic animals comprised the brilliantly white pebbles I collected along the shores of Lake Winnipeg. I’m curious about what escaping gasses formed the tunnels in the volcanic specimens in my yard. Crystals in cracks of chalcedony fascinate me, and now that we have DNA testing, I wonder what residual evidence of unknown ancient life exists deep inside them.

Earlier this year a daily devotional I was reading began with a quotation from 1 Peter 2:5. The author of the devotional drew an analogy between stones and mosaics. The premise: stones once chipped to pieces and arranged to create mosaic murals seemed to take on something akin to life. Perhaps some would agree with that author: before rocks can represent life, they must be painstakingly manipulated into mosaics or sculpture, or melted into separate elements for artistic casting.

Each to his own. Long before I discovered dozens of commentaries on the passage, 1Peter 2:5, the analogy between the Christian and “living stones” made perfect sense to me.

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson
--  --  --  --  --  --  

 Normally I write about writing on weekends, but I felt this special weekend deserved  a change. --b

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ten Catbite Turnarounds -- by KittyCat

I’ll say it straight out. I'm guilty. I bit Mom. I won’t do like Snookie and go on and on with boring details.  
But you know what? Mom says good stuff can come from bad. Sure enough, I came up with seventeen good things, but Mom tells writers they gotta use snappy numbers. Blah, numbers. So who got good stuff out of teeny toothmarks? (You can count if you want to.)
Mom. Right! She’s at the top of the list. I’ve watched baseball with Dad. Mom pitched a triple play and didn’t even know it. See, like most folks we know, Mom only goes to the doctor for regular appointments or when she feels like “death warmed over.” She’s had sinus all winter—felt yukky, had headaches, and even fever. One day she said she was running out of snake oil, and might need to see the doctor, but then she didn’t. The pills are getting rid of her bite germs and sinus stuff, too. On top of that, the lab took her blood while she was there, so she doesn’t have to go back for her “vampire appointment.”
 It could save her time in the future. See, if a baby kitten comes by, she’ll call everybody she knows, and write letters, and make special visits trying to find that baby a home. Well, the doctor announced his thoughts about cats. –One less call for Mom to make if and when.
 Mom got lots of practice using her left hand, and that’s good, cuz if she ever breaks her arm and has to use her left hand to eat, she won’t stick the fork in her nose instead of her mouth.
Mom skipped church on Sunday cuz the germ pills almost give her the pukes. (That’s not her word for it, but Snookie isn’t here to spell stuff for me.) Anyhow Mom had a fun day. Using the computer and mouse, she went to Victoria Beach in Manitoba. Then she phoned Michelle, one of my human cousins, to find stuff there, and even got to see Michelle’s house—well, the roof. I guess that was cool, cuz Mom didn’t get to see the roof when she went to Michelle’s a couple of years ago.
Moneywise Dad won big this weekend. He and Mom went shopping together. Usually he’ll buy more expensive things than she’ll buy herself. This time, though, nearly everything Mom looked at was made in China, and she wouldn’t have any of it.
Maybe it’s not a big huge win for the country, but when enough people like Mom write and tell companies what they think, things get turned around.
Since Mom had trouble typing, she didn't try to work, so I got lots of attention all weekend. And I’ll have all the girls purring up to me in a couple of months. Mom planted a big pot of catnip. When I go to Lubbock to see L’il Bit...well, to put it in human terms, think of a gal who sees everything she could want in a man, and he comes bringing roses.
There’s more good from the bad stuff, but Mom says “close with a zinger.” What’s better than catnip?

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson