Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the tag “#atozchallenge”

Want to Join a New Blog Challenge?

I just survived the A to Z Challenge, and here’s my official badge to prove it. survivor_[2013]

So today, I’m reading around on my WordPress Reader and Sock Zone pops up with this new challenge she found on the Internet.

Story of My Life: Blog Every Day In May Challenge

I met Sock Zone at letter Z of the A to Z, then went back and read more of her earlier posts. Wish I had met her earlier. Now she’s signed up for this Story of My Life Challenge: Blog Every Day in May (short posts, 250 words, using 31 brief prompts). I thought she was a little nuts. But then I thought, why not?

So here I am. Jumping in with two feet, two days after the start. Don’t worry. I’ll catch up. The posts are short.


***Prompt 1. Wednesday. The story of your life in 250 words or less.

I’m a small town girl, born on a farm in Southern New Jersey. I grew up with  five older sisters, two older brothers, and one younger brother. The household, which included a dozen cats at any given time, with perhaps a dog or two and even a duck, was obviously noisy. But big families can be fun, a lot of work for Mom and Daddy, but fun.

6 sisters-2

Photo: My big sisters and me. I am the littlest one.

Being “number eight,” I followed in the footsteps of everyone else and wore all their hand-me-downs. It didn’t matter. Nobody really cared about that back then. Well mostly they didn’t. A few lah-de-dahs in my class teased me about my clothes, but I pretended not to care. But, I did, a lot.

I excelled at school, was the first in my family to go to college, and became a special education teacher so I could look out for all those kids who were teased and mistreated on the playground. After a number of years teaching, I got a master’s degree in administration and got a job as a principal in an elementary school in Alaska. How I got there is another story.

After ten years in Alaska, I moved on to Hong Kong International School for seven years as an early childhood administrator–720 children ages four to eight. I loved that job and the travel that went with it, but my husband got quite ill (cancer) and passed away (now thirteen years ago). I needed to take a break from everything, so I retired and moved back to New Jersey to be near my family.

Eight years ago, I married a guy I dated fifty years ago. (He finally got it right!) And now it is My Turn to Write, which is the name of my blog.

Story of My Life: Blog Every Day in May Prompts

Here are the rest of the May questions in case you want to tag along. Let me know in my comment section if you do, and I will try to read your posts.

Day 1, Wednesday: The story of your life in 250 words or less (or one paragraph… no one will be counting your words… probably)

Day 2, Thursday: Educate us on something you know alot about or are good at. Take any approach you’d like (serious and educational or funny and sarcastic)

Day 3, Friday: Things that make you uncomfortable

Day 4, Saturday: Favorite quote (from a person, from a book, etc) and why you love it

Day 5, Sunday: Publicly profess your love and devotion for one of your blogger friends. What makes them great? Why do you love them? If you don’t have blogger friends, talk about a real-life friend or even a family member

Day 6, Monday: If you couldn’t answer with your job, how would you answer the question, ‘what do you do’?

Day 7, Tuesday: The thing(s) you’re most afraid of

Day 8, Wednesday: A piece of advice you have for others. Anything at all.

Day 9, Thursday: A moment in your day (this can be just a photo or both a photo and words)

Day 10, Friday: Most embarrassing moment (s). Spill.

Day 11, Saturday: Sell yourself in 10 words or less

Day 12, Sunday: What do you miss? (a person, a thing, a place, a time of your life…)

Day 13, Monday: Issue a public apology. This can be as funny or as serious or as creative as you want it to be.

Day 14, Tuesday: Ten things that make you really happy

Day 15, Wednesday: A Day in the life (include photos from throughout your typical day – this could be “a photo an hour” if you’d like)

Day 16, Thursday: Something difficult about your “lot in life” and how you’re working to overcome it

Day 17, Friday: A favorite photo of yourself and why

Day 18, Saturday: Tell a story from your childhood. Dig deep and try to be descriptive about what you remember and how you felt.

Day 19, Sunday: Five of your favorite blogs and what you love about them

Day 20, Monday: Get real. Share something you’re struggling with right now.

Day 21, Tuesday: A list of links to your favorite posts in your archives

Day 22, Wednesday: Rant about something. Get up on your soapbox and tell us how you really feel. (a pet peeve, a current event, a controversial topic, something your husband or roommate or neighbor or boss does that really ticks you off)

Day 23, Thursday: Things you’ve learned that school won’t teach you

Day 24, Friday: Your top 3 worst traits

Day 25, Saturday: Something someone told you about yourself that you’ll never forget (good or bad)

Day 26, Sunday: Something you read online. Leave a link and discuss, if you’d like.

Day 27, Monday: A letter to your readers

Day 28, Tuesday: Only pictures

Day 29, Wednesday: Five songs or pieces of music that speak to you or bring back memories. Use Grooveshark or YouTube to include them in the post

Day 30, Thursday: React to this term: Letting Go

Day 31, Friday: A vivid memory

Meow for now. =<^;^>=

A to Z Challenge Reflection and Celebration-My 100th Post


Today is Double Whammy Day! I got my A to Z April 2013 Survivor badge, then wrote this reflection post to make my 100th post. Double celebration!


I participated in the 2012 A to Z Challenge and loved it. I was a new blogger then and needed the push challenge that the A to Z gave me. I didn’t think I had twenty-six ideas to write about, and I didn’t think I could keep up the pace. But I did, and I did.

I continued blogging for six months after the 2012 A to Z ended, then took a break because of family health issues. When the 2013 A to Z Challenge turned up this year, I jumped in the deep end. I love the challenge to write on a regular basis, and the discipline keeps me going. I like this year’s theme focus and decided to write about a not-so-popular topic, grammar. I have always loved grammar and feel bad when people disparage it. I want to make grammar fun and powerful for writers. (This will take a while!)

Like many of us, I have met new friends through interesting blogs. I wish I had so much more time to read what everyone has to say. I love the travel and photography blogs, the cooking blogs, the nonfiction blogs, and the whimsical blogs. I read as many writing blogs as I can, and read through everything that appears in my WordPress reader based on my categories of interest. I love making new discoveries and meeting new people. And I love reading the wide variety of writing styles. Such talented people! I am impressed.

I commented on many posts, but “liked” a lot more. Commenting is good, but I also like to read widely, so I had to work out a compromise on how many comments I could write. Besides answering comments on my own posts took time, too.

New ideas for posts come floating at me as I read other posts. Now I have way more than twenty-six ideas to write about!

For my X post, I wrote “X is for X-It (exit) Strategy,” a reflection post on A to Z itself. I wrote out ideas for how to keep my blog going and how to clean-up my blog a bit.

Special thanks to the organizers of A to Z, Arlee Bird and assistants. I think you have helped a lot of bloggers move from being baby bloggers at the starting point to becoming more mature bloggers. We Are Not Alone (Kristen Lamb). We learn from each other.

Thanks to my new blogger friends. I hope we can keep in touch.

And now, care to join a new challenge?  My new friend at The Sock Zone posted about this one, The Blog Every Day in May Challenge, and I jumped right in.


Now for your bedtime reading, here’s a list of my 2013 A to Z Posts.

Bye for now. =<^;^>=  See you in the 2014 Challenge…and hopefully before!

Appalachian Trail. 2180 Miles of Bliss?

No, I’m not starting another A to Z Challenge, at least not this year.

I’m just writing about a friend, Mr. Terry Bliss, who has taken on a challenge of another kind: walking the Appalachian Trail (AT) from its start at Springer Mountain, Georgia (passing through North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire) to trail end at Baxter Peak, Mount Katahdin, Maine. 2180 miles! On this trail, you can be a NOBO (northbound) or a SOBO hiker (southbound).

This trail is tagged moderate to strenuous, with elevations ranging from 124 feet at its lowest point to 6,643 feet at its highest point (Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN). Hazards abound on the trail: buggy pests to American Black Bear, smooth paths to boulder-strewn paths, flat trails to steep trails, dry trails to frozen trails, and warm days to freezing days. It’s a hiking adventure, to be sure, but it’s definitely not for the weak-hearted. Reportedly less than 20% (reports vary from 10% to 29%) of thru-hikers (NOBO or SOBO) finish the hike. Fatigue, accidents, boredom, finances, family issues all interfere with its completion. Those that do complete the AT receive a “2000 Miler” tag by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Most would agree that this is a formidable challenge, maybe even a bit foolhardy. But Mr. Terry, being the brave man that he is, appeared undaunted in facing this personal quest.

Mr. Terry Bliss and his wife, Mrs. Terry Bliss, are my winter-in-Florida-pool-and walking buddies. And no, I didn’t stutter on their names. To keep them straight in conversation we call them Mr. Terry and Mrs. Terry.

Going by his trail name, Blue Moon, Mr. Terry started his walk on March 1, 2013, on a cold and windy day, hefting a thirty-eight pound backpack. His dear wife, Mrs. Terry, dropped him off at Springer Mountain, Georgia to begin hike. He signed in as hiker number 109 (NOBO) for the 2013 AT hiking season.                          .


IMG_4620[1] (3)

Mrs. Terry has been posting updates on Mr. Terry’s progress at http://www.terrybliss.com. Son, Scott Bliss, has been posting the amazing photos and videos from Mr. Terry at the same site. All pictures in this post are used with Mrs. Terry’s permission.

Along the trail, Blue Moon has seen beautiful scenery…

DSCN1381[1]  DSCN1325[1]



…and surprising sights.


Along the way he has had sunny days with dry trails…


rocky trails. . .


wet, cross-stream trails. . .


steep, stair-stepped trails. . .


foggy trails. . .


and snowy, icy trails.


And then the weather got worse. More snow and ice. But through it all, Blue Moon kept smiling.

Terry on AT

Now, (May 2) at some sixty plus days after he started,  Blue Moon is still on the trail somewhere near Waynesboro, Virginia. He has walked 850 miles and is still raring to go. The weather is better now, and he has had a number of good hiking days, reaching his best hike rate of 24 miles in one day. Mrs. Terry reports that he has lost twenty pounds or so along the way. Hiking ten to 24 miles a day uses a lot of calories.

Terry at McAfee Knob near Roanoke Va

Photo: Blue Moon atop McAfee Knob near Roanoke, VA.

Blue Moon is on top of the world with approximately 1300 miles to go. This man is a mission, and he sets a humbling, but powerful, challenge to us all: if you have a dream, hold it, plan for it, then do it.

Coming soon: Updates on Blue Moon’s progress, Camping on the Appalachian Trail, People on the Trail, Food on the Trail . . .

All photos by Mr. Terry Bliss. Used by permission of Mrs. Terry Bliss.  www.terrybliss.com

Terry near Roanoke, VAHere’s another hiker, Barbonabike, heading up the trail from Georgia to Maine, posting in blog, Pieces of Me.  Barbonabike’s tagline on WordPress: “I’m a thrill-seeking, life-loving, soul-searching, song-weaving, guitar-picking nomad wandering the world on two wheels and a prayer!”

Z is for Zoomorphic Architecture: CATS Immortalized

Final day in the A to Z Challenge.

Zoomorphism means giving animal characteristics to deities (mythology), persons (literature), arts (statues, graphics), and architecture (buildings), generally in three dimensional representation.

The cats have been meowing and meowing and meowing, trying to get me to write more about them. They wanted to take over this blog post themselves *shudder*, but I promised to get going on a “cat post” just to keep them quiet.

Coming up: Three zoomorphic cat-shaped buildings. Meow.

cat shrine Japan1. Cat Island, Japan: Cat-Shaped Camping Facilities.

First, let’s go to a tiny, ferry-accessible-only island off the coast of northern Japan, Tashirojima. Nicknamed “Cat Island,” this island has a cat population larger than its elderly human population. In fact, the cat shrines (10) and cat monuments (51) almost outnumber the people. Feeding cats, so the story goes, brings great wealth and good fortune. (Dogs are not allowed on this island!)

This island was severely damaged in the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and the tsunami that followed. People and cats escaped harm, but the destruction of buildings and fishing vessels was rampant.

Cats on this island seem to be precocious. In the past, when the silk industry thrived there, these furry critter-catchers performed a great service by eliminating pesky gourmet-silk-worm-eating mice. And not only did these furry felines excel at rodent catching, they also predicted the weather for fisherman and announced (by their behavior) the arrival of schools of fish in nearby waters. No wonder these cats were so loved.

One day, one of these beloved island protectors was accidently killed, and the grieving fishermen built a small rock shrine in its memory. That was the beginning of this cat love affair. Now there is an inn (Hamaya) on the island that welcomes guests looking for the island’s most famous cat, Jack. “Tare Mini Jack” (Droopy-Eared Jack) became famous after a movie featured his story. (Click on the link above to see some cat movie clips.)

The sign above right recounts the tale of the first cat rock monument. Notice the “Hello Kitty.” He is saying, “Welcome.” (Did you notice the Hello Kitty on my blog header? I got him on a trip to Japan a number of years ago.)

This once-dying island now has a whole new life, including zoomorphic camping facilities pictured below.

cat buildings

cat building Japan

Photos of camping facilities by Zooming Travel of Japan

2. Nekozuka, Japan Cat-Shaped Bus Shelter

cat shaped building

In southern Japan, you can find this cat-shaped bus shelter. Supposedly an old priest and his faithful cat lived in an ancient temple in Saifukuji, Japan. Unfortunately, a large rat also lived in the temple, and he often bit the priest. In desperation, the priest pleaded with his cat and its friends to capture and kill the rat. Reinforcement cats flooded in from surrounding towns to form a vigilante committee to take care of this humongous, bothersome priest-biter. The battle broke out after midnight; screeching, hissing, and grunts of the fierce encounter could be heard throughout the night for miles around.

The next morning, the priest discovered the now-dead rat as well as the bodies of all the volunteer vigilantes who had helped to rid the temple of the malevolent menace. The priest buried the dead cats at this site, and later the community built a cat-shaped bus shelter to commemorate the cat-astrophe.

Photo by pokoroto, Brian G. Kennedy.

3. Kitty Kindergarten, Karlsruhe, Germanyzoomorphic cat

What a nifty place for kids to learn and play. This kitty-shaped kindergarten was designed by Tomi Ungerer and artchitect Ayla Suzan Yondel.

What fun to go to recess by sliding down the cat’s tail to the playground from the second floor of the building.  Children enter the building through the cat’s mouth and eat lunch in the cat’s tummy dining room. Photo image from Milk Magazine.

The Last Meow.

Do you hear that racket? Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow.

That’s Zoey, the Cool Cat, owned by photographer, Russel Ray. Zoey heard it was Z-Day and wanted see what all the fuss was about. When he found out it was Z-Day, he wanted in. Anyway, here’s his stamp of approval (used with permission) on this blog post. What higher honor could I possibly get? Thanks, Zoey.  (See more pictures of Zoey in Meow link above.) Meow for now. =<^;^>=

Cat im-zoey-the-cool-cat-and-i-approve-this-post59

Y is for…Your, You’re, Y’all, Ya’ll, Yall, You All, You Guys, and Yakety-Yak

a-to-z-letters-2013Y-Day in the A to Z Challenge.  Twenty-five letters finished. One to go.

Y has been a struggle for me. I listed possibilities, but none inspired me. Here’s a round-up of my thoughts.

1. Your (possessive), you’re (contraction, you are)

These two Y words are brutalized regularly all over the Internet, but writing about them again won’t make a bit of difference. These two commonly confused words (your and you’re) are right up there with its and it’s; and there, they’re, and their. All frequently confused.

When I see these errors I think, “Are you smarter than a third grader?”  If you are, then take the time to straighten out these classic mix-ups. Of course, I am preaching to the choir now. Right?

2. Y’all, ya’ll, yall, you all.

This topic had some possibilities. Regional English.  Look at this linguistic map of the United States. It’s amazing how many different American Englishes exist.

linguistic map

I thought about giving one example of regional English, the word y’all, but checked on Grammar Girl, and she has already written a long piece about it. (Click here to read it.) I guess I can’t write about that. I could talk about my Texas relatives, and how they use y’all, as in y’all come on down and visit. That sounds nice when they say that.

Bryan A Garner, a southerner, has written almost a full page on y’all, ya’ll,  yall, and you all in Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009). He reports that y’all is the correct form of this regional (southern) usage, used even by highly educated speakers. Ya’ll is a misspelling. Yall has been used by some writers, although this spelling is not widespread and is not recommended. He also suggests the use of you all as perhaps the way to avoid raising northern eyebrows.

Serious questions arise about y’all. Is it singular or plural? If it is singular, how do you say the plural? Let it be known that there have been heated debates over this question!

3. You guys.

You guys? *shudder* Garner says this phrase is now replacing you all in urban areas outside the South and Southwest.

Garner cites Steve Blow, a writer for Dallas Morning News (27 Sept. 2002), who called the term you guys a “horrid Yankee construction.” I must say I agree with that!

The first time I heard this informal phrase, I remember disliking it intensely.  I was observing in a classroom, and a teacher called her students to attention by saying, “You guys should put your work away now and get ready for lunch.”

Are girls guys? Being politically correct these days means you can’t use the phrase guys and gals or guys and dolls. Please. That would be offensive. So evidently when speaking to a mixed sex group, in popular English, the term you guys can now be used informally.

What’s the plural of you guys? You guyzez? What about the plural-possessive form? Youse guyzes’? Or how about youse guys’s for the plural-possessive form? Who knows what will come next in our language.

Then one day, it happened.  I caught myself using the term you guys when working with a group of teenagers in a drug and alcohol rehab program. Ugh. That’s how language changes. We hear a word or phrase so many times that it slithers into general language usage, and we are hardly aware of it happening. But I was aware of it and vowed to never use that phrase again.

4. Yakety-yak.Yakety Yak...Coasters

The dictionary is handy in the A to Z Challenge. When you get stuck on a letter, you can scan the dictionary for ideas. I scanned the Y section and came upon yak (animal), yak-yak (slang for too much talk), and yakety-yak. That roused my memories of The Coasters singing, “Yakety Yak, Don’t Talk Back,” a song from many years ago. Of course, I started to sing it. My husband, off in another room of the house, laughed and asked, “What on earth caused that outburst?”

He should know by now that I am working on the A to Z Challenge, and that any weird thing I say or sing  has to relate to The Challenge.

A to Z does that to you.

Listen to Yakety Yak here.

cats bunchThe Last Meow.

Y words? Why didn’t you ask us kitties for a Y topic? We have tons of Y words. Just look up Y names for kittens on Internet, and you can find hundreds like Yo-Yo, Yum-Yum, Yanisha, Yasmin, Yassar Aracat, and Ying and Yang, and lots more. You could have done your whole post on kitty cat names. Next time, ask us for advice, would ya?

Meow for now. =<^;^>=

X Bonus: Xena, Warrior Puppy, Helps Autistic Boy

Bonus X in the A to Z Challenge. This my second X post. Click the title to read the first one,  X is for X-It (exit) Strategy.a-to-z-letters-2013

Read a  very touching story about an eight-year-old autistic child, Jonny Hickey, and his very lovable Xena 3 tdy-130424-xenaforlaura4_photoblog600dog, Xena, the Warrior Puppy.  Click on Today Health to read the full story.

The dog, who was perhaps four-months-old when he was found and brought to an animal shelter in Georgia, had been abused and was in very poor condition. Health recovered, he now lives happily with Jonny.   This arrangement has been a blessing for both of them. Get your tissues out.

Animals can be used in therapy with all kinds of special needs situations. Next week, I’ll tell you about a dog who spends his days in a nursing home where my sister lives.

The Last Meow.

Well, I guess some dogs are okay. This one seems to be a nice fella, so he can visit here on our blog. But just a visit. That’s it. The general rule is NO DOGS ALLOWED, but we will make an exception just this once.?????????????????????????????????????????????????

Meow for now.  =<^.^>=

X is for . . X-It (exit) Strategy

a-to-z-letters-2013Day 24 in the A to Z Challenge, and here we are at letter X.

I have been reading a number of AtoZ bloggers’ posts to see how creatively they have handled this topic, and I am impressed. This letter has been a challenge for us all, (what will we ever do next year?) but look at what interesting things I found.

Xantus, a hummingbird
Durty Fillums. And no, this is not a hummingbird variety, and it doesn’t start with X. Go read it and you’ll get it.

And hang on, we still have the letter Z to mangle manage.

The A to Z Challenge has been good for me in both 2012 and 2013. (See my treasured  2012 A to Z Badge of Honor?) Somehow I feel responsible to get survivor-atoz-2the letter of the day done, even if one delinquent letter spills over into the next letter territory. A to Z keeps me on task and in focus.  It keeps me interacting with other bloggers, clicking likes, and leaving short notes. This has been fun.

But what happens when the A to Z party is over?

One year ago, just before my first A to Z,  I joined WANA112 (We Are Not Alone) group organized by Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone. One hundred bloggers came together to share our beginner struggles with blogging under Kristen’s superior tutelage. Now 88 members of that original group still keep touch by sharing blogging posts, comments, support, and friendship in our own closed Facebook group. I love this group. They are the best.

And now, I have found new blogger friends on A to Z. I hope we can keep in touch via the Blogging A to Z Facebook page. But now, since this A to Z party is ending, I must decide what to do next, hence this X-It strategy post. Here are some beginning thoughts.


1. Keep blogging, but perhaps at a more sane regular pace, say two or three times a week.

2. Clean up my blog. It looks a little cluttered on the sidebar, and I want to tighten things up there.

3. Add my blogroll…I have procrastinated long enough on that. Thanks to Dawn M. Miller at Lingering Visions for sharing her thoughts on procrastination here.   

4. Keep reading blogs, liking them, and commenting on posts in WordPress reader. This is my favorite way to read blogs because they come up in a nice list and load quickly. (Going from my email to a blog post is sometimes slow.) And I like the way WordPress pulls up blogs in categories I have selected. I can quickly see what’s new in my favorite areas: grammar, writing, ESOL, English teaching, travel, photos, cooking, health, books, and of course, my all time favorite: CATS. ={^;^}= Meow.

5. Categorize my posts and publish topic lists of my posts. Along that line, I want to make headers for topics.

6. Print off a hard copy of each post (now at 93 posts). On post 100 I will post a Catalog of Cats Celebrating with me.

7. Master the gimmicks and widgets. Even after a year of posting, I still have trouble with getting new widgets in my sidebar. I think I have mastered it, then when I try to do it again, I fail. Maybe I should write down the directions? You think?

8. Get the answer to this question. WHY, WHY, WHY does WordPress flip back to an older version of my drafts when I click off to do something else? This is the most maddening thing.

9. I am sure more goals will pop into my mind as I rethink this whole process. These will do for a start.

Thanks for being my faithful readers. Now that I have stated my strategy, you will have to hold me accountable.

Now the educator in me says that I have to be S.M.A.R.T. about these strategies. Maybe another day. My head is spinning.

smart -goals 2

The Last Meow

Hey gang. It’s almost time for the BBBBIIIIIGGGGGG party. How about a little warm-up so we will be totally prepared? Meow for now.  =(^;^)     xxxxx

party cats on table

W is for Whose Woods These Are

Friday, April 26 is W-Day in the A to Z Challenge. The end is in sight. Three more letters to go.a-to-z-letters-2013

Robert FrostWhenever I see a woodsy area in Southern New Jersey (or anywhere else for that matter), I think of the first line of Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” a poem I learned in 10th grade English I’m not telling how many years ago a number of years ago.

Whose woods these are I think I know.

Lately, I have thought of this line a number of times, although I have always incorrectly remembered this line as “Whose woods these are I do not know.”

Last year, on June 30, 2012, many patches of wonderful woodsy areas in Southern New Jersey were devastated by a severe wind-storm (derecho) as it hopped-skipped-and-jumped through our area. I wrote about that storm in this blog post: Blame it on the Derecho a few days later in July of 2012, and I posted pictures of the damage in and around my hometown.

This year, on various walks and rides around the area, I have looked to see how well the area has recovered from the storm.  In some places, you hardly notice the damage. Old trees have been cut down, and new smaller trees have been replanted on local city streets. But in the out-lying woodsy areas, it is a different story.

I decided to take more pictures of the area to show how long-lasting the damage is.

WalkingTrail AC 019

The tops of these pines were sheared off and left standing like telephone poles. So far, there is no evidence of recovery. The pine cones that weren’t blown away may start new pine growth, but that will take years.

WalkingTrail AC 035New growth can just barely be seen in the twinges of red buds on the still-standing trees.

WalkingTrail AC 026Trees were broken off like matchsticks at mid-height.

woodsy shots-derecho 001

Huge trees were pulled up by the roots.

cropped woods-derecho

Large sections of trees stripped bare stand next to sections of trees hardly touched.

Whose woods these are I do not know, but it saddens me still to see such devastation.

On bright note, though. There are new buds on the bushes and red twinges of buds on the branches. Hope springs eternal.

The Last Meow  

We cats love trees. Here’s the proof!cats  in trees 1

cats in trees--get down

cats in trees oops

Meow for now. =(^,^)=

V is for. . . Vampires Invade Grammar World

V-Day in the A to Z Challenge!a-to-z-letters-2013

Four days left in the challenge, but there are some tough letters yet to come: W, X, Y, Z.

Let’s have a go at V.

Karen Elizabeth Gordon, author of The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, loves vampires, demons, gargoyles, mastodons, and other dark creatures of the night.

Why? Because she thinks they can teach us about grammar.

001 (8)Originally published in 1984, a new edition of this book was released in 1993. Evidently there were more monsters to be found in the deep, dark, dank grammar cellar. Despite its age, The Transitive Vampire holds the number 53 spot of best selling grammar books on Amazon.com. Monsters do not slink away, it seems.

Gordon has a positive use for the gnarly “menange of revolving lunatics” that invade her book, and that is to teach grammar to the wary. Even her definition of grammar has demons in it.

Grammar is a sine qua non of language, placing its demons in the light of sense, sentencing them to the plight of prose.

And the lunatics? Their stories and digressions lead through a formidable labyrinth, through the dark tunnel of myths and mistakes to the light at the end of the tunnel: pure and lovely understanding of grammar. A feat not lightly accomplished.

The creatures teach about sentences. Here is a little tasty bite for your chewing pleasure. First subjects of sentences:

 There were fifty-five lusterless vampires  dismantling the schloss.


The werewolf     had a toothache.
The persona non gratia    was rebuked.

Gordon marches her vampires and demons through the parts of speech (“verbs are the heartthrob of sentences”) up through phrases and clauses, and ends with comma splices and the creation of sentences.

Go ahead. Get this book and keep it on your nightstand. Read some of it every night. The artwork and the characters will keep you turning the pages well into the witching hours, and you will have such pleasant dreams about grammar. *devilish laugh here* *wolf howls in the distance* *skeleton bones rattle*

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Gordon also wrote The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, 19981 and 1993. This book is guaranteed to entertain as you review the rules of punctuation you learned in grammar school but promptly forgot.

The Last Meow.

monster catMonsters? Demons? Ha. We can play that game. Check us out!

Don’t mind that other kitty. She’s just a scaredy-cat.

Meow for now.  ={`;`}=

cat is it Friday

U is for Use, Usage, Utilize, and other Useful and Utilitarian Units

a-to-z-letters-2013What with all the rules about grammar, usage, and style, it’s a wonder anyone can get anything down on paper. Fortunately, native-born English speakers have internalized the rules and can speak and write from intuitive knowledge of how words work together in sentences. Any time we have a question about correctness, we can just pull our our handy reference manuals or go online to find the information we need. Or better yet, we can just let our editors fix the glitches in our writing.

What? You don’t have an editor?

Well, I don’t either, but my grammar-picky husband steps in and whacks at my writing. Sometimes he’s even right.

Grammar Reference Books and Textbooks

Good writers do use grammar reference books, and proofreaders and editors keep a large stock of them on hand. My own rather extensive collection starts with one first published in 1926. Here’s its classic opening sentence:

The Doorway to English is an outgrowth of a need of the classroom teacher of English who has been struggling long to achieve results in quality of speech from textbooks instead of making technique contribute to the quality of better speech. Almost any teacher of English can readily distribute the technique in orderly fashion through the respective grades, but few teachers are capable of allotting through a definite period of instruction the expanding qualities of good speech. L. Rader and P. Deffendall, The Doorway to English, Fifth Book, 1926.

What? Strunk and White, authors of The Elements of Style, would definitely not give this textbook writer an A for clarity.

Of course, some reference manuals vary in their pronouncements and create long-standing, hard-core devotees and crusaders, maybe even Grammar Police and Grammar Nazis.

One good example is the controversy over the serial comma, or the Oxford comma as the Brits call it. Do you use a comma after the second word in a series before the and?  Journalists frown on the use of the serial comma; academic writers adore it. Chicago Manual of Styles says yes, use it. APA says no, don’t use it. What’s a writer to do? Most writers follow what they were taught in junior high and high school, then look for evidence and authorities to support that position.

Usage and Style

Grammar and usage are different. Grammar: how words should be used in sentences. Usage: how words are used in sentences.

It’s Prescriptivist Grammar (this is the way it should be) versus Descriptivist Grammar (this is the way it is.)

Style is how an individual author puts together his or her knowledge of grammar and usage in writing.

A college professor, for example, would use a more formal, politically correct style in presenting his final report to the college president on, “The  Liberalization of the Humanities Department through the Utilization of Descriptivism in Chauvinistic Literature.”

The teenager writing on Internet uses a more informal style: mysterious acronyms that confound mature readers; pop idioms and slang; and improper spelling of there, they’re, and their, and your and you’re.

Here’s an example of a style suggestion from Strunk and White.

Avoid fancy words.

Although Strunk and White’s book does have it gallery of critics, it does offer helpful advice to developing writers. Their advice ranges from elementary rules of usage to the more hard-to-pinpoint style.

Why use a complex word when a simpler word will do? That college professor would do well to tone down his writing. The teenager will hopefully use a bit more formality in his academic writing.

The Last Meowcat editor

Hey, humans, why worry about all of this. We cats have our own grammar. The fuss that you make about these sticky details puts me to sleep. Get a life!   Meow for now.   =<^;^>=

And My Cat pic

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