WE PAW Bloggers E-zine — Issue 60

These are unprecedented times. Perhaps no one thought the crisis would drag on for so very long. But, we find ourselves now the better part of a year down this road with no easing of the crises in which we find ourselves. As we drag on and on through this period of national and global crises, this is why, as writers and creatives, we write to cope.

Let us be the clarion call for a better future.

The “Write to Cope” prompt is open only to WE PAW Bloggers group members on Facebook. Member contributors were asked to submit ANY writing about our multiple crises. Each contribution is limited to 1000 words or less and may be written only submissions, or may be spoken word readings under seven minutes in length (but with text transcriptions included).

This is why we “Write to Cope” — What we writers, poets, authors, and artists of all types do reflects the joys and turmoils in our societies in which we create. We creatives are the mirrors of our society in the midst of our the still growing global pandemic and a new generation of righteous struggle for civil rights and equal justice.

Hands and hearts and minds and voices committed to working for tolerance, peace, and social justices everywhere, always. ~MomzillaNC

Abrogation

I can’t cope with your vanity,

It clashes with my insecurities.

It makes me feel how I always feel,

Wishing that I felt a little more steady inside.

Drink this you say, it will help you to fake it.

But I don’t know what I’m faking it for?

What does normal even look like -

Will it suit me, will it even fit me?

For I feel Alice in the shadows, lurking -

Making believe that this is Wonderland.

When I’m too wounded by the arrows

Of all those imaginary successes

The population of this modern utopia are shooting at me.

How do I know what is real,

When all I am fed is snake-oil,

Vanity and fakery. Tell me, in what am I meant to believe.

BYLINE: Frank Regan

IWSG: Writing, In and Out of Season

Insecure Writing Group

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It’s time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it’s the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you’re a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you’re a reader, it’s a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

December 2 question — Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney,Liesbet @ Roaming About Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre! Be sure to check out their posts as well as some of the other fabulous posts in this blog hop after you see what I’ve got to say:

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I pair my writing endeavors with a teaching career, so there is definitely a feeling of seasons about my focus, trying to make regular progress in small bursts in some times of the year, and having the chance to luxuriate in longer writing sessions during others.

During the school year, writing is shunted into a couple of hours a day at most. I still write — my daily writing chain is now over 7 years long — but I move slowly, producing somewhere between 250 and 800 words a day on average. Definitely my turtle time of year (vs. the hare).

I made a video about this on my author YouTube recently. You can check it out here:

Generally, when school is out, I go full-time on my writing life, devoting five or six hours a day. I still have other things to balance, of course, but even all my family, friendship, and life demands don’t add up to the demands of a school day and, most of the time, I can get a couple of writing sessions a day.

It’s been a little different this year, thanks to COVID — meaning I couldn’t send my youngest daughter to a friend’s house or off to camp — but I still got a good four hours a day last summer by taking my writing time while she was still asleep (teenagers sleep late if you let them) and that felt like heaven.

I look forward to being a full time writer someday, but for now, this seasonal swing works for me. It might even be the secret of my success at the moment.

I look forward to my months (and holiday weeks) of being *only* a writer, and my enthusiasm and anticipation probably contribute to my ability to make good use of the time. I save up ideas and promise myself I’ll get to do certain projects when my writing season arrives.

I appreciate those hours all the more because I don’t have them any old day. They’re a gift. Something special.

How about you? How does your yearly flow go for your creative endeavors?

BYLINE: Samantha Dunaway Bryant

Growing My Hair Out To Support Children With Hair Loss

Happy December! Happy Holiday Season!

But before we get into holiday season topics and features, taking a few minutes today to talk about another issue dear to my heart — Children With Hair Loss.

Seeing sick and ailing children in hospitals has always torn at my heartstrings. While having actively supported St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital thru the years, I have always sought out ways to do more, and have recently discovered another way to help the children. And it costs nothing, really.

In recent days, some folks here have approached and asked me about my increasingly long hair. “What’s up with the ponytail, Jim?” Here is the inside scoop for everyone.

What began as more of a lark when the COVID shutdown occurred last spring, growing out a ponytail just for fun because I could not get to a barber anyway, continued afterward when restrictions eased just to see what it would do, aided by my lifelong disdain for barbers and costly haircuts in general.

“Beautiful Child With Cancer and Hair Loss Due to Chemotherapy” by frantab. Image sourced from Shutterstock by licensee James Milson, Writer

I had always wanted to grow a ponytail just for fun and had made more than a few aborted attempts along the way, always grabbing the scissors when my hair reached five inches or so, not having the nerve to really go thru with it. But always in the back of my mind were the mental images of some of my heroes, all sporting ponytails (or “queues” as they were called in the early days) at one point or another in their lives — George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Willie Nelson, George Carlin, and others. Admittedly, some may have been wigs in colonial times, but still a simply smashing good look!

So, with a beginning boost from the COVID shutdown in spring, my personal “Ponytail Project” has now evolved into purposely growing my hair out with a reason.

I am supporting and joining in the efforts of a large (and growing) number of men who are growing their hair out to support the organization “Children With Hair Loss”, a non-profit organization that provides human hair replacements at No Cost to children and young adults facing medically-related hair loss due to Cancer treatments, Alopecia, Trichotillomania, Burns, etc. Beginning in the year 2,000 and helping children and young adults across the nation, Children With Hair Loss has assisted over 5,000 nationwide thru 2019.

A 2019 event sponsored by ‘The Longhairs’organization I am participating with set a Guinness World Record, generating 339 pounds of hair donations and $50,000 in support of the Children With Hair Loss efforts. The next big donation event — “The Great Cut 2024” is scheduled for some time in 2024 (exact date to be determined later), at which time they are working to do even more and set another Guinness World Record. At that point, I will donate my hair to be part of it all.

“Sick Child Sitting On Sofa and Holding Teddy Bear” by LightField Studios. Image sourced from Shutterstock by licensee James Milson, Writer

So, that is why I am growing my hair out — to help the kids. Because the painful effects of the treatments these children have to endure are far more than physical, and deeper than merely cosmetic. Self-image is a very important thing when one is a youngster, teen, or young adult. Emotional scars are just as or more painful than the physical, with emotional damage perhaps everlasting.

If you would like to join with me in the cause and save a bundle of cash in barber and hair salon expenses over the next four years, I would be honored to grow along with you. There will be opportunities to donate and/or participate from anywhere in the world.

Donated hair must be at least 8” long, with the strongly preferred length 12” and longer. It can be grey or any color, dyed, or treated, but cannot be bleached. On average, human hair grows approximately ½” per month, so now is the time to start.

In the meantime and as time goes on, your support and encouragement are greatly appreciated while I simply Keep on Growing!

I will update with progress reports here from time to time as we go along and eagerly look forward to hearing from others who may be growing their hair out for the children, as well.

Right now, with the early head start last spring, my hair is already 9” long. With the kids in mind and along with the other men, I am shooting for a length of 24” to 30” by 2024. Please wish me luck and just call me “Hippie Jim” if you like.

Will you grow along with me to help the Children With Hair Loss efforts? It is for a very good cause and is yet another opportunity to help make a positive difference in someone’s life.

Thanks always for visiting and reading along! Very best wishes for a Happy & Healthy Holiday Season! Keep on Growing! — ‘Hippie’ Jim

BYLINE: James Milson, Writer

Seeing Splinters as we Exit Level Five

Moravian Church in Belfast in the snow a few years back at Christmas. Photo by Thomas Carty

We see the splinters in Americas eye
Who from COVID19 have quarter of a million dead:
Its smug to sneer Trump for his ignorance,
Yet we should look at ourselves instead…

Our deaths as a percentage of cases
– Testing free, of our numbers were sure –
All America is sure of is number of deaths:
Cases probably higher as few tests for the poor.

We have a plank in our own we cannot see
Mocking like COVID is catching…
Look to facts not to trends and projections
Or to denialists and the conspiracies they are hatching.

We are not as bad as Britain is true,
America is getting worse who we mock,
But we are worse and have been worse still:
The facts come as a hell of a shock.

We are they tell us in this together,
But there are different rules
For the rich and the mighty who party
And the isolated taxpaying fools.

We exit Level Five before Christmas
We wish each other seasons greetings as we pass
Can we give the elderly the time and respect
By staying home, and letting them go to Christmas mass?

BYLINE: Tomás Ó Cárthaigh

There Is Nowhere To Be But Here

Photo by Phil Mayes

PHIL: I often read aloud after we retire at night, and we’ve been reading one of our favorites for the second time: “Ten Poems to Set You Free.” Last night we read “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?” by Mary Oliver and the commentary by the editor Roger Housden. Oliver’s poem, along with others in this book, is a call to truth, to living your life more honestly, to finding your true calling, to owning and honoring your hidden desires, to act on this rather than letting the days slip away. Implicit in her writing is a challenge to be present, though she is so skilled a wordsmith as to have no need to use that word.

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?

I sometimes find myself wanting in that regard. Facing the twin pulls of my dreams and the horde of obligations that shout at me each day, I spend too much time procrastinating and doom-scrolling. Inertia and habit too often close out another day without anything to claim.

But there is one area where it is much easier for me to be present, and that is with Maude. Because I feel fully accepted and have no need to hide any aspect of who I am, I am much more able to enter into that state of being fully present, which also means giving my full attention. We each see and are seen.

(It’s not clear which comes first — full acceptance or being present. The two arise together and are entwined. They complement each other so naturally that knowing which is cause and which is effect has little use. By accepting how Maude is and what she does, I avoid the focus on what she did and the speculation on what she might do, unless, of course, we’re playing chess together. From the other side, being present doesn’t imply full acceptance, but if something is bugging me, it is the ideal position from which to examine the source of that irritation.)

So the challenge for me is to take the peace I have with Maude and use it to tackle those obligations by saying “Yes” (see Maude’s piece), be very aware of how I use political news for an adrenaline rush, and reach for that latch.

MAUDE: “Sorry I missed the meeting, but I didn’t realize it was Friday.” “I can’t believe the week has gone by and I still haven’t finished that report.” Is it time to shop again? I feel like I just did that.” “Is it really already December?” My experience of time seems to have altered drastically during these many months of lockdowns and underlying political tensions.

This strange morphing of time has led me to examine its effect on my relationship with myself, Phil and the outer world.

One of the most unexpected effects is that I realize I am more aware in many ways of being in the present moment. This may in part be a defense mechanism to all the outer tensions that have built up. The sensation of hunkering in place has somehow also brought out the feeling of being in the now stronger than ever.

I face each moment with a stronger sense of gratitude than ever before and handle each new event with wider open arms than before. In so drastically reducing the direct contacts with others and the outside activities I participate in, I have gained a stronger awareness of each activity, each person.

A friend of mine was sharing a story recently in a Zoom circle. She had something come up in her daily situation which was stressing her out and taking time and energy she felt she didn’t have. We all know that feeling: something we are responsible for isn’t working and has to be repaired; a parking ticket arrives in the mail for a place we have never parked our car and we have to try to get it straightened out on the phone since the office is closed nowadays; something we have already taken care of disappears in the mail and we have to go through the whole thing again and now it’s late.

The aspects of life that I don’t choose and that impinge on my plans just seem to pop up and interfere with the smooth running of the day I have visualized. My friend, however, found a different way than resistance to respond to her issue. She decided to just say “Yes” to what had presented itself, and, wait for it…to do that cheerfully! She reported that the shift in her response entirely changed the situation. This is a wonderful way of saying, be present with what is, and be there consciously and willingly.

I am finding that this is the great gem in the heart of this crisis that I think we can all come away with. We can take advantage of this much-restricted situation to be fully present with what is. There are far fewer distractions of our own manufacture. We have an opportunity for calm and peace as we settle into the new norms and the times we have with each other via Zoom or in person. If you are in a relationship where you are living with someone, then treasure this time, the presence of each other, and the quiet opportunities to be together and handle this crisis together. If you are living on your own, then you have an opportunity to truly experience the present and who you are when locked down on your own.

None of us would ask for this experience, but given that it is here, we can use it as an opportunity to dig deeper into ourselves and to be present with what is. This is another opportunity to spread peace, to be peaceful with what is and to share that with others.

BYLINE: Phile Mayes and Maude Maureen Amato Mayes

The Year That Was (& Looking Ahead) — Writing in a Pandemic NewYear

In early January, as I watched the car burn in our own driveway, I never dreamed the kind of year we were about to have.

Never realizing that this was a harbinger of the things to come.

Image captured from the “January 2020 Car Fire” video

Pandemic. Murder Hornet. Unrest of all kinds. The election. And everything in between.

What a crazy, insane, unsettling year it’s been!

For the first half of the year, I could barely write as I was constantly worrying about my family’s health and safety.

Normalcy was gone.

We had entered the realm of the unknown and chaos.

Over time, I think we all learned to do what we can, when we can in the age of the “new normal.”

Between you and I, I really dislike that term.

As I write this post, my family and I are safe and healthy. This though is becoming more difficult as the virus has wreaked havoc in our little community of about 10,000 where 1 in 8 are now infected.

BBC News did a video/article on one of our community hospitals (Just a few miles from where I live)

Ours schools are still open but we’ve recently elected for our son to attend virtually.

Once the numbers moderate and start its decline, we will send him back. Which I hope is soon because staying home with the parents all the time is starting to get on his nerves.

Or so he says.

In October, I finally started to gain traction in my writing.

To date, I have completed a novelette (In the Shadow of Death), and am currently writing a novella (Christmas Miracle).

These two will carry over to the new year where I intend to finish the novella and write book #2 for the novelette.

Beyond that?

We’ll see what 2021 brings.

How about you? How did you do? What are your plans for the coming new year?

BYLINE: Carrie A. Golden

A little Christmas humor homage to Clement Clarke Moore’s famous Christmas poem. Pondering what he would write if he was alive today?

Photo of the Poet, Robert Trakofler a.k.a “Bad Bunny”

A New Visit from St. Nicholas

Twas the night before Christmas, and still stuck in the house
Not a feature was stirring, fell asleep on the couch;
The masks were all hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas would too also wear;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
With visions of cyber-school perplexing their heads;
And mamma with her sanitizer, laid next to my lap,
Had just settled our heads for a long winter’s nap,

When out in the street there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the couch to see what’s the matter.
I stumbled to the window my toe I did smash,
Tore open the curtains and threw up the sash.

The car alarm muffled under new-fallen snow,
Gave hint that I may be… needing a tow,
When what to my weary eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh, crashed into my car’s rear

With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And slid into my car, he was shouting their names:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
Oh, Comet! oh, Cupid! oh, Donner and Blitzen!
My insurance they’ll raise on to top of it all!
Why couldn’t you at least of crashed into a wall!”

“Dear Santa” I said “your sled should still fly,
A quick fix at the body shop, my bumper they’ll pry”
So up to the housetop those coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, Purell and toilet tissue

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in Tyvek, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
With A bundle of toys he had filled in his sack,
“I hope this is right, with your postal service scaled back!”

His eyes — how they twinkled! He exclaimed somewhat leery!
“Next year we’ll use Zoom, for Christmas gift query!”
His red and white mask was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was hanging below;

The stump of his nose would slide with his speech,
Lowering his mask, to drift underneath!
“I can’t wait for the vaccine.” He said with a laugh;
So I don’t have to keep wearing these darn Covid masks!”

And with a gloved fist pump and jolly elbow rub
Back up the chimney, he climbed back above
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like a shot from a pistol!

But I heard him exclaim, as he flew into the night — -
“Merry Christmas to all, for the virus end — — is in sight!”

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WE PAW Bloggers E-zine

WE PAW Bloggers E-zine

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An ezine for members of the FB group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/wepawblog, as well as being the place to curate featured writing prompt contributions.