Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cat Napping

by Tanner the Kitty

Because today is Caturday, I decided to celebrate by taking a nap. Here are some of my favorite napping positions. Sometimes I roll up . . .


. . . and then unroll a little.


Sometimes I lie on my back with my arm over my face . . . 


. . . or I might fold my arms on my chest.


Here's a close-up:


Sometimes I interrupt my nap to take a bath. I am self-cleaning, so I don't need a tub. I clean the inside of my arms . . . 


. . . and my feet . . .


. . . and the back of my hands . . .


. . . and the sides of my arms. It helps to have a really long tongue.


The bottoms of my hands and feet are naturally black. 


Meanwhile, out on the deck, my buddy George is taking a nap, too. Do you see him?


Here's a closer look.


He seems real relaxed.


Which reminds me—I need to get back to my nap.


I hope your Caturday was as relaxing as mine has been.
~

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

What the Heck?!



No cute kitties will appear in today's post. Maybe next time.

In today's mail there appeared a letter to my mother from Bank of America. I was a bit surprised because Mama hasn't received any mail here for nearly a decade. Here's the main part of the letter:


Apparently, she has "opted out of postal mailing offers" from Bank of America, but the company wants "the opportunity to share product and service offers" with her so she can have "the benefit of considering them." If she doesn't contact them to opt out, Bank of America will keep sending her "product and service offers."

This ain't gonna be easy, Bank of America. But I'll give it a shot.

For one thing, my mother never ever used a computer, so she wouldn't comprehend the concept of "drop down menu." She's not going to call them toll-free, and she certainly won't be visiting a nearby banking center. She's never had a "Financial Advisor" or "Mortgage Loan Office." She never had a mortgage. Apparently Bank of America is clueless about all this.

Bank of America, if you're reading this blog, there's something you should know: My mother was born in 1913. You do the math. Since she died in 2004, she's not going to take the time to evaluate her mailing preference, regardless of whether or not they "affect statements of account servicing communications." She doesn't have an account with y'all!

So, Bank of America, you can take your appreciation of the opportunity to service her financial needs and you can—well, I'll bet you can figure it out.

Don't you think it's maybe time you updated your records? Just sayin'. . . .
~



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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hay Weather 2014

This morning was green and luminous with a light wind blowing. The morning sun shown through the redbud leaves . . .


. . .  and through the Virginia creeper leaves that are taking over the deck.


In the morning's long shadows across the bottom driveway, a cat sits.


On the deck, flowers bloom.


This weekend promises to be good hay-making weather—sunny, hot, and dry. The hay that was cut yesterday at Polecat Creek Farm will dry in the light wind that's already blowing.






Speaking of blowing wind, today is the 73rd birthday of Bob Dylan, who wrote "Blowing in the Wind." I heard Bob Dylan sing "Blowing in the Wind" when he appeared in Richmond in 1966. I was a junior at RPI (now VCU) then. I paid $2 for my ticket.


How will this year's hay crop be? The answer is blowing in the wind.


~

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Missing Tree

by Tanner (Resident Kitty) 

Something bad happened to my condo: the landscaping left! I had no sooner convinced Camilla and Dylan to vacate my building when my tree disappeared. All that was left were some leaves on the floor. Even Jim-Bob noticed it was missing when he came to visit.


I was so upset I had to hide under the rug until I felt better. 


Finally, I looked out at my condo and decided maybe I could accept the change of scenery.


It looks so empty with the tree gone. Mommy said it would be happier on the front porch for the summer, but I'm not very happy. She mumbled something about minimalist decorating.


However, you can see my art collection a little better now. I have several cat-themed art things hanging on the wall. I think this one says "The Cat Named Tanner lives here." 


You can see the birdcage painting better now that it hangs from the ceiling.




If I don't like the direction it is hanging, I can change it. See, it looks a little lopsided. . . .


I just have to make a little adjustment.


There! That's better.


I can also see more of what's happening below me now. I can look down on everyone better.


Maybe I can used to this minimalist look.


Here's looking at you!

~

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dreams and Meditations

Recently I read some Kindle ebooks that dealt with raising our consciousness, expanding our reality, and generally improving our lives: Lucid Dreaming Now, The Ultimate Zen Guide to Meditation, Buddha in Blue Jeans, and Original Zen.



Let's start with dreams: My Grandma Ruble was a great believer in the meaning of dreams; she had a well-thumbed dreambook wherein she'd look up the meanings of whatever she dreamed about. I seem to remember that dreaming of a birth meant a death and dreaming of a death meant a birth. I think she also believed that you shouldn't tell your dreams before breakfast. I don't know if that meant bad luck or if it meant the dream wouldn't come true. She also believed in ghosts and in planting by the signs. She consulted her almanac as frequently as she consulted her dream book. While I'd heard a lot about the meanings of dreams when I was a kid, I'd never heard the term "lucid dreams" until I read the Lucid Dreaming Now (and I discovered there are a lot of ebooks and print books about lucid dreaming!).

According to the ebook, "Lucid dreaming is technically the state when you are aware that you are dreaming." In other words, even though you're asleep, you know that you're dreaming. I've had dreams like this—many times, I remember thinking this is only a dream as I dreamed about something. Now, I have a word for what I was doing.

Lucid Dreaming Now very briefly mentions the history of lucid dreaming (Aristotle, for instance, was interested in it) and briefly tells how it helps relieve stress, helps with problem solving, helps you deal with fears, etc. It lists ways you can remember your dreams (many of which I'd heard before—a dream journal, for instance) and gives hints for having lucid dreams.

While Lucid Dreaming Now is interesting as a brief introduction to the subject, it lacks depth. I really wanted to hear about the author's experiences or about case studies. There weren't any. I was hoping there would be a bibliography, but there wasn't. The table of contents wasn't linked (which is one of the things I expect in an ebook), and there was not even any author information whatsoever. If I'm reading non-fiction, I want to know the author's connection with the subject matter and maybe the author's qualifications to write the book. The book could also have been arranged in a more logical manner.

I also thought it odd that the author's name ("Nick Bell") was not on the book's cover (and was different from the name of the woman who contacted me on Facebook and recommended I read her book). Also, Nick Bell,  despite having written numerous Kindle books—about such conditions as hyperthyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome—has no Amazon Author Central page in his name. At the end of Lucid Dreaming Now, the author asks the readers to "check out my other book: Steve Pavlina's Ultimate Guide to Lucid Dreaming"(approximately 21 pages, $2.99), which is credited to Nick Stevens, who does have an author page wherein some of the 20 ebooks are written by Nick Bell and some by Nick Stevens. Call me confused! Who is the author?

Coincidentally, I have read Nick Bell's The Ultimate Guide to Meditation (approx. 17 pages, $2.99), which I got as a free download a year ago. I'm not sure how "ultimate" a subject can be covered in approximately 17 pages, though, and was not surprised that the book is very general. Again, there was no name on the cover (but a sticker proclaims it an Amazon bestseller), and—other than the author's mention that "I'm much more present, alert, I sleep better, and I don't get overwhelmed with anything that comes my way anymore!—no personal experiences or info about his qualifications to write the book. The book was arranged just like Lucid Dreaming Now, and the table of contents wasn't linked to chapters. I got the impression it was hastily done. And—I think—some info was just wrong: "Meditation . . .  helps your body get into better shape. Since meditation requires some physical movements, it can already serve as your daily workout." Huh?

And later in the book, meditation is finally defined: "Meditation is a self-imposed technique that can be done anytime and anywhere you please. You can do it on coffee breaks, on the couch, and even in the bathroom." Self-imposed technique?! And one of the tips for beginners: "As a newbie, you can start by enhancing your focus by using props, i.e. candle, flower, etc. to which you would try to give your full attention." Double-huh?

The "Tips on How to Meditate" chapter was, er, strange. One tip: "Try to find a spot that you find peaceful. It doesn't matter  if it is surrounded by some noise, because you can eventually use this noise to further enhance your senses."  This completely contradicts what I've read in other books about meditation. Consequently, I found very few of the tips helpful. Despite its title, the guide isn't ultimate.

On the other hand, Buddha in Blue Jeans: An Extremely Short Guide to Sitting Quietly and Being Buddha (approx. 31 pages, free), while also very brief, was much more readable. The hints were almost like very short poems. The main idea was sit quietly, be yourself, and pay attention to your breathing. This book is considerably more helpful as an introduction to Zen than The Ultimate Guide to Meditation. According to his Amazon page, author Tai Sheridan is a Zen Priest. He has several other free e-books about Zen.

Eduardo Mitchell's Original Zen (approx 120 pages for $2.99) goes into much more detail than the other two books and includes the author's personal experiences as he follows the path to enlightenment. He learned meditation from a Tibetan monk, teaches meditation himself, and has a master's degree in psychology.

Mitchell's definition of Zen is "the pathway to discovering your own inner nature and finding the knowledge that is stored deep inside you, which is knowledge you were born with." Of the three ebooks on meditation, this one is the most valuable because of the author's greater attention to detail, longer explanations of how and why Zen works, and personal experiences. The book is well-organized with a table of contents linked to the 13 chapters and to a glossary. The helpful hints  ("The Eight Steps to Quieting the Conscious Mind") are much more logical and helpful than the "Tips on How to Meditate" in The Ultimate GuideOriginal Zen effectively combines memoir and how-to advice.

Disclaimer: I did a bit of editing for Original Zen before it was published, so I read it several times. Because of it, I became interested in reading more about meditation.

Thanks to Amazon's "Look Inside the Book" feature, you can check out the beginnings of these ebooks yourself.
~




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Thursday, May 08, 2014

Tanner Gets High

by Tanner the kitty

I was enjoying my new condo when something I didn't expect happened. Camilla, the resident old lady cat, climbed up and took it over.


I studied the situation for a while. What should I do?

 

I decided to go up and have a cat-chat with old Camilla and tell her it was my condo and she wasn't supposed to be there. I'll tell her that I like the highest spot, but it would be OK if she moved down a little lower. So I started my climb.


I didn't get to the top. Camilla said she is the matriarch of all the household cats and what she says goes and if I don't like it that is just too bad.


She looked down on me.


When I protested, she told me to talk to the paw.


I went back down to my old place and sulked for a little while. I was not happy.


Then I found some catnip and shared it with Chloe and we partied.



After a while I didn't feel so bad. If I couldn't climb high on my condo, I could get high another way.


Chloe, I think the earth is moving too fast. Hold me so I don't fall off the sofa!


Meanwhile, Camilla moved down a few floors. Maybe I could get my high spot back.


No such luck! Dylan, the resident old man cat, took it over.

 

 He says he is the patriarch of all the household cats and if I don't like it that is just too bad.

Here we go again, I thought. I need some more catnip.
~

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