The Intervention

Fandango’s one-word challenge yesterday was PREPOSTEROUS. I wrote this response in my head but didn’t get around to making it into a file. So here I am, a day late in posting my effort.

As Ludwig’s his three cousins filed into his tiny study and circled around him, the grimness in their faces made him apprehensive. “Take chairs, my dear cousins. This is a rare treat for me, having all three of you come like this. I suppose you must have some family business on your mind?”

“We need not sit. This won’t take long.” Karl faced him and spoke clearly, as Ludwig was getting quite hard of hearing. “The family business we have on our mind is YOU, Ludwig.”

Franz nodded in agreement. “We’ve talked among ourselves and decided to speak with you about your problem. We’ve decided to call this little meeting an intervention, as we wish to intervene in your affairs — purely for your own good.”

“My problem?”

“To save you from certain poverty,” Karl added.

Franz shuffled his feet. “Your hearing, cousin Ludwig. You know it’s getting quite poor.”

“Ah.” Ludwig’s eyebrows arched. “And so? What do you propose to do on my behalf? Send me to yet another doctor? The ones I’ve seen all say nothing can be done.”

The third man held up his hand and spoke loudly, “Exactly! We realize that nothing will change your fate. If your hearing loss continues at this rate, in ten years you will be deaf as a stone.”

“You don’t need to shout, Leonhardt. I can still hear, if only you speak clearly.”

“I’ve talked with my wife’s brother, Walt Shnedden,” Leonhardt explained. “As you may know, he’s a successful meat-cutter, and he’s willing to take you on as an apprentice, even though you’re…older… He’ll teach you the trade so you will be able to earn an income that’s not dependent on your hearing.”

“Meat-cutter? But my hands are made for the piano. For writing music!”

“You’re still a young man. Ludwig,” said Karl. “And we’ll admit, you’ve done very well at composing. People love your sonatas. But that day will come to an end, once your precious musical ear has fallen silent.”

“I think it’s very generous of Walt.” Leonhardt sounded impatient. “Only a fool would try to carry on writing music when he was deaf. And you’re no fool, Beethoven. I hope.”

Franz, always the amicable one, chose an encouraging tone. “We believe you could become a skillful and moderately prosperous meat-cutter if you started now.”

“That’s preposterous,” Ludwig shouted. “Music is my life. How can I ever accept such a crazy suggestion?”

Leonhardt turned to the others. “Well, cousins, I doubted we’d be successful in our endeavor. He will not listen to common sense. Ludwig will scribble his sonatas all the way to the poor house. We may as well carry on to our second intervention. I’m sure my nephew Felix will listen to reason if Ludwig will not.”

Ludwig started. “Felix? Do you mean Felix Haustelraed — the boy who dreams of being a sculptor?”

“Just the one.” Karl shook his head sadly. “He imagines he can earn a living chipping away at stone, but we all know that’s impossible in this day and age. A man needs a real job.”

“But his work is brilliant! If he keeps on, he could be a famous man someday.”

“He’d make a good meat-cutter, too,” said Leonhardt. “And be able to support a wife and family, as every young man dreams of. So hopefully he will show more sense than you, Ludwig. Good day.”

Karl nodded curly as he left the room. Franz, the last to go, gave a quick smile. “Good day and good luck, Ludwig.”

Beethoven waved, then turned back to his desk where his latest sonata awaited its final crescendo.

The three cousins had more success at making young Felix see reason. He went on to become a moderately successful meat-cutter, while Ludwig van Beethoven stuck with his music, deaf or not.

And now, who’s to say…?

Almost Everybody

I wrote this fun piece in response to Fandango’s one-word prompt for today: ALMOST. Check out his blog to see the other responses, or add your own.
I was especially prompted to write this tale by Frank Prem’s not-quite-haiku, Almost a Cockatoo. You’ll see the link to his blog, Seventeen Syllable Poetry, listed among the others.  🙂

ALMOST EVERYBODY HAS A PAIR

“Mom, I need new running shoes.”

“So what else is new?” was Dad’s comment.

“You just got new shoes back in spring, Brandi.” Mom reminded her.

“That’s right,” Dad agreed. “And as I recall, they cost me a wallet full of bills.”

“Mom, Dad. Listen to me! The shoes you got me back in spring were El-cheapos. Now they’re like, RAGS! They’re decomposing with every step. I’m gonna get gangrene if I keep wearing them. I REALLY need new shoes.” Brandi stuck out a foot to show the evidence and wrinkled her nose. “I need something a little higher quality.”

Dad jabbed a finger in her direction. “The way you and your sister go through shoes, all we can afford are El-Cheapo brands. Do I dare ask how much ‘a little higher quality’ is going to set me back?”

Brandi rolled her eyes. “Oh, Dad. All you think of is money! You don’t understand how…how…ostracized I feel wearing Excess-Economy brand when all the other kids are wearing these cool new TECH-tonic ‘Earthmovers’. Kids who have ‘em say they really grip the ground and…”

“And all your classmates are wearing these?” Mom asked.

Brandi’s sister Trena nodded in agreement. “I’ll need a new pair soon, too.”

“Even some of the poorest kids,” said Brandi. “And they’re, like, $220 a pair.”

Dad’s eyes popped open. “Two hundred and…” He whistled. “And everybody in your class has a pair? Except some of the poorest kids, of course — like you two.”

Brandi stuck out her chin.“Well, yeah. Do you want us to be scorned by the whole school? Mocked on Facebook because our shoes are rotting on our feet?”

Mom looked at Dad and raised her eyebrows. Dad looked at Mom and raised his eyebrows. Somehow they both managed to maintain a ‘bank-manager-considers-loan’ sobriety.

“We’ll see.” Mom said. “Now that I think of it, Carrie’s cousin volunteers at school Thursday mornings. I’ll ask her what she thinks of these news shoes everybody’s wearing. You called them Earthmovers?”

Brandi nodded, squirmed, and sent her sister a desperate glance. “Well, almost everybody. At least five kids in my class have a pair. But the rest are getting them as soon as…”

Dad grinned.  “As soon as they can talk their folks into saving them from mocking and scorn?” He winked at Mom.

Brandi and Trena gave each other a meaningful look and rolled their eyes as if to say, “Parents. They’re so…archaic!”

Flowers & Rainbows

Early Morning Rainbow Spotted

“What is so rare as a day in June…” and all that.

This isn’t a sunny day at all, but the rain clouds that rolled over yesterday afternoon were and are welcome. They’re still hovering, but when I looked out first thing this morning I saw the tail end of a rainbow hanging just under the cloud bank in the south.

Yesterday was the “Year-End Picnic” at our private (parochial) school. Activities started about 1:30; we went over at 3pm to watch and partake of the fried chicken and salads supper provided at 5:30. We were all thankful that the clouds didn’t come over until after all the fun and games. And supper was well timed weather-wise; we were called to partake at 5:30pm and the rain didn’t start until after most of us had eaten. But then it definitely DID start.

The timing of this rain is great for crops and such. Even my little excavation. I have begun digging up a long-neglected flower bed I’d made years ago in our lawn. While I was dealing with my leukemia I let it go; now it’s choked with mats of quack grass roots. I’m trying to get those out and not kill the peonies planted there and the soil has been powder-dry.

I’m thankful that I finally have the energy to work at this project. I’ll have to be diligent with this task all summer, too, seeing as quack grass roots go deeper than I can with my spade and will be popping up whenever they get the chance.

Speaking of pests, I saw oodles of tiny grasshoppers yesterday. We’ve had a number of cool, wet springs and the hopper population has been decimated from what it was when we moved here ten years ago. But it looks like we’re heading into a dry cycle again, so we’ll likely have to contend with them this summer.

Heads Up re: Important Change in Communications

We’ve been having a fair number of problems with the internet service cutting out and/or being very slow. Yesterday Bob decided to sign us up with SaskTel as our new provider; they’re coming this morning to install a tower on our roof and get us set up. Hopefully SaskTel will provide more reliable service than what we have now — which sometimes cuts out for hours when we have thick cloud cover.

So as of this afternoon I’ll have a new e-mail address or two! I’ll probably send a note to folks in my current address book to let everyone know.

I don’t know if this will mean a temporary disruption in my blogging, as all my present communications are coming and going via Xplornet. But any of you who wish to contact me can do so through christinevanceg @ gmail.com. Maybe once I’m settled at my new address I’ll install one of those ‘Contact Me’ widgets.

Daily One-Word Writing Prompts

Since WordPress has ceased sending out their daily writing prompt, several sites have sprung up to supply what folks are missing. Judy Dykstra-Brown has posted links to a half-dozen and is interested in hearing if there are more. Click here to see her list.

Rebel Gray and Union Blue

Part B

My poem started as haiku;
from there it grew, as thoughts will do—
expanded to a broader view
of rebel gray and union blue.
And now I’ll share my thoughts with you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Warning: Unqualified Political Views Ahead

Not so long ago I read one blogger’s lengthy and convincing article urging Southern cities and towns to take down all those Confederate memorials. Her argument: the Confederate army were fighting to protect and perpetuate a system that held people in bondage. Why should Americans honor their position and keep these memorials to their struggle? A question I won’t touch, not being black nor living in the South. My grandparents came up to Sask. from Minnesota.

Have you ever noticed, though, when it comes to war, how “causes” often aren’t causes? “Religious wars”, for example. How often are they really about religion? Yes, there’s always convincing rhetoric, but how often don’t money, land grabbing, and power lurk somewhere back there, feeding the flames?

This blogger’s take on the Civil War was limited (at least the angle of her article) to the issue of slavery. Ridding America of “the blot of slavery” was the face put on the declaration of war, but I’ve read a few historians who suggest other factors, too. Northerners may have opposed the idea of slavery but breaking the economic advantage of the prosperous South may have colored the picture as much as the issue of black and white, according to some analysts.

Southerners had accustomed themselves to the idea and practice of slavery, but when the Union army swept down on them, Southerners were fighting as much for their economic and physical survival. I’m not sure how much, if any, negotiation took place before hand, or whether the North simply issued an ultimatum Southern leaders rejected. But, as is usually the case in conflicts, the guys at the top make the decisions and the average Joe & Johnny have to pay the price.

Union General Sheridan, regarding the state of Virginia as the breadbasket of the South, was quoted as saying his army was going to strip Virginia so thoroughly that if a crow flew over it would have to bring its own lunch. If the leader of an opposing army about to unleash his troops on your area or country would make a statement like that, would you be thinking ideology — or would you be desperate to save your home and family? It’s only in looking back that we paint stories in their most popular colours.

One book I read describes the experience of Mennonites in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Believers in peace, not wishing to take sides in this conflict, they saw their farms fall into the hands both armies, their livestock slaughtered, their young men arrested by one or the other side. They were hard-pressed to survive those bleak years.

The Civil War, we know, was a long and bloody conflict. And one thing quickly showed up when it was over: a better life for black folks was never the goal. After crushing the Confederacy, the Union army marched off and left Southern blacks to the mercy of some quite bitter white neighbours. Read the history; it’s not pretty. Black families that moved North soon learned that they’d face as much, if more subtle, discrimination there.

A great book on this topic: The Little Professor of Piney Woods: The story of Professor Laurence Jones, written by Beth Day Romulo, © 1955. It’s incredible what one man can do when he puts his heart into overcoming prejudice with gentleness and making life better for his people. He fought a tough battle against poverty and prejudice — and won.

Thankfully a lot of healing has taken place; I trust a lot more will yet. Unity and equality are worth fighting for, but these battles are best fought in people’s hearts. As Jesus once explained: all our actions, loving or hateful, spring from what we believe and desire in our hearts. Think of Charlie Brown’s “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand!” That’s a heart issue.

David, who blogs at Hokku, pointed out in a recent post that some folks are preaching love, acceptance, and tolerance, yet trying so hard to silence those who don’t hold the same opinions as themselves. It takes an honest heart to recognize that “It’s me, oh, Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”

Enough musing. It’s Monday morning and I have work to do.

Writing Prompt Sources

Like so many of you, I read the announcement last week that WordPress is discontinuing some of its regular features, including its Daily Prompts on May 31st. I haven’t been using their one-word prompts for a long time; nevertheless, this announcement sparked my curiosity. I decided to have a look at how many other sites on the net offer writing prompts.

Hello Mr Google… WOW! I could write a story a day for a hundred years with what’s available out there.

Some sites are maintained by publishers like Writer’s Digest. Some are blogs by published authors like Graeme Shimmin and John Matthew Fox. (For your convenience I’ve put their links at the bottom of my sidebar under Writing Help)

Searching specifically, you can find random first line generators, random plot generators, random character generators, movie script generators. There are prompt sources for teachers, for students, for songwriters. There’s one titled, “Twenty-one writing prompts to help you finish an entire novel this summer.” There’s even “80 Letter-writing prompts” from Compassion International.

Just for curiosity I clicked on THIS ONE and generated a random set of ideas; you can click the buttons and come up with a story line that suits your fancy. Much like WriterIgniter, a site I’ve used before.

Just for fun I clicked the buttons and this is what I came up with:
MC: A young man in his late teens who is very wise
2nd character: A woman in her late thirties who is very lively
Setting: The story begins in a nursing home.
Situation: something precious has been lost
Theme: It’s a story about justice
Character action: MC reluctantly becomes involved

This combination called to mind a real happening, back when I worked in a seniors’ home. Something precious really did go missing. I don’t know if the truth was ever revealed, so I’ll have to fake it. Stay tuned for my tale — with details changed to protect the guilty. 🙂

The Daily Post also has a free e-book of writing prompts that can be downloaded as a pdf. Get it HERE.

When I go to Amazon.ca and do a Writing Prompts search, again I’m bowled over by the 84 pages of books containing writing prompts — and I see a lot of these are “Read Free with Kindle Unlimited.”

The down-side of picking a prompt at random instead of using a central source like Daily Post Prompts is lack of the sense of community. You’re on your own; there aren’t hundreds of people using the same word or photo. For those of you currently connecting via the Daily Post will you miss this? Will you try another community like The Write Practice (link in side bar) or one of the various Flash Fiction groups going?

And for anyone reading this post, what writing prompts sources have you found useful?

Blogging: Using Categories and Tags

Some time ago I started dropping in on First Friday to meet and greet a few new bloggers. A lot of them are just learning the ropes and open to a little guidance, so I often leave some advice about categories and tags. I’m posting this here today in case these thoughts may help some other newbies and maybe some longtime bloggers who haven’t attached much importance to this angle.

Categories & Tags

…are very useful creatures. You can create them as you publish each post, using the sidebar on the right. Tagging our posts is how we invite other bloggers to check out what we’ve written. For example, if I create a Personal, or an Education, category or tag for my post, it will send my post title and a couple of lines to the Reader. Other bloggers searching for posts on Personal or Education will see mine listed and hopefully come and read what I’ve written.

Note:
WordPress says they allow only fifteen C’s & T’s per post. If there are more, their SPAM detectors will boot the post off the Reader. Like coming to a beach party in tux and tails, golden cuff-links and a flashy silk tie.“Too much is overkill; go home and change.”

Some bloggers use C’s and T’s; some may use only one or the other. It’s up to you. Both go to the Reader. However, categories and tags also become, over time, your blog’s filing system. I wish I’d understood better how they work when I started blogging. In fact, I started a brand new site last year and am slowly reposting all my writing so I can use Cs & Ts properly for each item.

For my own blog, I use Categories as the drawers of my filing cabinet. The big sections: Poetry or Fiction. Then the tags are like files within the drawer. Under Poetry you’ll find tags like: Nature, Seasons, Children, Inspiration, etc. Under the Fiction category you’ll find tags like Travel, Truth, Children, Relationships, etc

Among the Widgets there’s one bloggers can install that puts a list of Categories on your blog’s front page. You can put them in your top menu as I’ve done on this blog, or you can display them in your sidebar. Another option is to install the widget that gives you a Tag Cloud. You can choose how many tags will display.

To each his own, but in my opinion it’s better to limit the number displayed, or choose “Display as a drop-down list,” rather than having a list of seventy-five categories running down your Home Page sidebar. Generally speaking, try to make things as simple as possible for your visitors.

Be selective when choosing C’s & T’s. Pick something pertinent to your post, topics people are actually going to be looking for. “Aunt Sue” may be an intriguing person, but not a very compelling tag for someone who doesn’t even know who YOU are. Ditto with Flowers or My trip. Titling your post Cheap Vacation Spots and tagging it Travel, Adventure, River rafting, Timbuktu would be far more apt to draw visitors than Vacation. The specific English language tag will draw readers more than the general Grammar. For more ideas on what Categories and Tags to choose, check out the Reader:

One Sour Note:
When I first started blogging the tags were much simpler: Articles, Opinions, Home, Family, Religion, Books, etc. Thankfully these tags still show up, but one sad thing I’ve seen in recent years is some sites creating tags with their own (usually advertising) posts. So you get a tag relevant only to purchasers of, say, women’s t-shirts. As one example, right now I see a tag: Baby Bodysuit Designs. It appears that one site selling some of these outfits has published almost 3000 posts — most of them TODAY! Sigh.

Uncategorized Posts

I often see posts listed as Uncategorized. I consider this the waste of a perfectly good tag. Like dropping a luscious ice cream cone in a puddle.

Uncategorized is the default setting that comes with every new blog. It tells no one anything about your post. My advice: get rid of it.

A blogger can change their default by going to the left hand sidebar and selecting Settings. Next you see a screen where, across the center at top are four words:
General, Writing, Discussion, Traffic. Click on Writing
The first line under writing is for Categories. You’ll see how many you have and what the Default is.
Click on the arrow at right. Now you get to add more categories and also change the default to something that better suits your blog’s general theme. I’ve chosen Reflections.
If there’s a Save Changes button somewhere on the screen, hit it. You should be good to go.

And now I shall use as many pertinent categories and tags as possible, and hit publish. 🙂

Low Pressure System

Sunday morning
low pressure system
only one eye open

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As least that’s how it felt this morning. 🙂

Except that our cat Pookie is part Energizer Bunny and part rooster, eager to be up and at’em as soon as the dawn expands into morning light — about 5:30 am these days. He never bothers dear hubby; I’m the one who should get up and give him his morning treat, then let him outside for a romp. If we’ve forgotten to shut the bedroom door he jumps on the bed and starts prodding me until I get up and humor him — or shut him out of the room.

I’m light-sensitive, too, and can’t sleep when it’s full daylight. Early morning’s a good time for blogging, so I’ll post this verse that dawned on me first thing this morning.

By now I have hundreds of haiku verses and plan to start posting again on Tree Top Haiku. I’m doing some setting up and have scheduled the first ones to appear May 1st.