Saturday, September 29, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons - Helping a Friend

"When life give you lemons, make lemonade." It's a phrase a lot of us heard uttered by our parents or grandparents. Well, that's fine, if you have enough sugar to balance the tartness. Unfortunately, sometimes the tart outweighs the sweet and you find yourself needing a little help from your friends -- or even from strangers.

Francy and her dogs
Such is the case for my friend Francy Dickinson. Like me, Francy is an indie author. You might know her by her @SeniorCareTips handle or by tweeting with her dogs @MissBusyBiz and @Kirbee_Dude. You might follow her Senior Care Tips blog -- and if you have seniors in your life, you will find some very helpful tips there. Or, you might not have heard of her at all. If not, I hope you take the chance to get to know her.

I took that chance in May 2011, when I was introduced to her on Twitter and invited to join the @WritersThatChat group. I'm happy I did. Francy is a bright, compassionate person with a lot of really fun stories and experiences. Although her lemons are many -- her husband George, whom she dearly loves, is suffering from Alzheimer's -- she approaches life with vigor and good spririts. She is there for me in my sorrow and my joy. She is always there for everyone who knows her.

George, a veteren reading
My Dad’s Pictures From WWII
by K.F. Kirwin
Unfortunately, life threw Francy another lemon -- one she doesn't have enough sugar left to sweeten up alone. Francy, George, Missy, and Kirbee are losing their home. They will have to move, which will be very bad for George. Fortunately, a family friend is willing to pay first months' rent, plus deposit. But, as anyone who has moved knows, it'll take a lot more than that.

To help Francy meet expenses, her anipal friends are hosting #PinkPawty on October 3rd from 5 PM to 9 PM EST. If you've never been to an anipal party before, they are a lot of fun -- music, dancing, giveaways, virtual food and beverage, and lots of antics by the anipals. My tweeting dog @RagabashGirl will be spinning discs from 5:30 until 6:30. I have also posted a Chip-In link in the margin of this page.

If you want to learn more about Francy and her plight, PepiSmartDog wrote a fantastic article on his site.

Oh...and Rags says, she will take advance requests only -- to hard to find discs and dance at the same time. So if you'd like to hear anything special at the #PinkPawty, comment here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Farm Stories - A Calf Named Autumn

Most of my family and old friends can't believe I live on a farm. You see, I was the consummate city girl in high school and college. I loved the nightlife -- good restaurants, sophisticated bars, nightclubs, theater, concerts, and poetry readings. I loved the nightlife so much, I seldom spent a night at home.

Fast forward to 2000. John and I decided to leave suburban St. Louis and move out to some land we'd bought in the country, adjoining his parents' farm. At first life was much less stressful. No traffic, no nosy obnoxious neighbor complaining that our dog barked too loud. Of course, the pace was hard to get used to. Out here in the boondocks, people don't keep time the same way they do in the city. "In a while" might mean hour or a week. That first year, it drove me nuts, especially as June turned to July and our air conditioning was not yet installed. But the endless songs of nature right outside my open office door made the waiting worth it -- whippoorwills, frogs, crickets -- sounds I'd never heard in the city. Poetry I never would have heard if we hadn't moved to the forest.

Our first attempt at farming was raising chickens and ducks. I laughed at the tiny baby ducks swimming in the guest bathroom tub -- well, of course they needed to swim and what better place? They were too tiny to take outside in the cold.

Autumn - born 9/25/12
After John's Dad passed away in 2004, we inherited the cattle -- a small herd of around 15 head of beef cattle, depending on the time of year and how many calves have been born. Raising cattle was a whole new adventure -- and a lot of work. But one of the happiest moments is seeing a newborn healthy calf. I'd like to share this moment with you.

Meet Autumn. She was born on Tuesday, probably sometime in the wee hours of dawn. When we went up to feed the cattle at 7:30 AM, our dog Max found the afterbirth in the field. That was our first indication that Autumn had been born. Her mama Resurrection (how she got her name is another story for another day...suffice it to say, she was born around Easter), brought her up to show her off.

Autumn and John
She's a calm calf too. A lot of calves are skittish around people. Not autumn. She let John walk right up to her and pet her. Of course, about that time, she cried out for her mama. We had a moment of panic -- where was Resurrection and the rest of the herd? Our cows sometimes like to escape if they can find an opening, and there had been storms the night before.

John called -- sooop! Which is how he calls them up for grain. Autumn cried out again. Fortunately, it wasn't long before we heard Resurrection holler back and all the cows came winding up the hillm expecting a treat. They hadn't been out at all. They'd just been down the hill grazing.

Did your life take an unexpected turn? Are you doing something your friends and family would never have imagined you doing?
Leave a comment and tell your story. And let us know -- would you like to hear more stories about our life on the farm?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering 9/11 -- and how lucky I was

Some say the events of 9/11/2001 shaped America in the 21st century -- and even the world. I can't say those people are wrong. What I do know is that, looking back on that day 11 years ago, I was a different person. And, I realized later, a very lucky one.

I learned about the planes striking the Twin Towers when my sister-in-law called. I was hard at work on a proposal to write a course about Windows XP. When she told me, I thought she was pulling my leg. But then I went up on the Internet and saw the footage of the first strike. She wanted me to go up and be with my mother-in-law because she didn't want her to be alone when she heard the news -- my father-in-law was still alive, but was out in the woods. Instead, I sent John up to tell his mother and I called my mother.

We live in Missouri and my Mom lived in California. When I called her, she had just woken up and hadn't heard. I remember sitting on my back porch, looking out into the peaceful woods, and telling her. "Mom, we're going to war."

She said, "What do you mean?"

I said, "We've been attacked. How can we not go to war?" Now, I was a pacifist -- I still am. But I couldn't imagine any other response to an attack on American soil.

She asked, "Attacked?  By who?" Although my mother had lived through more wars than I had, she had only been a young child the last time America was attacked.

"They're not saying. But I think it was Osama Bin Laden." How did I know that? I didn't. I had just read an article about Muslim extremists and Bin Laden. It had stuck in my head.

We talked for awhile...I talked to a lot of people that day. Friends, family, even a Pakistani coworker because I was worried about how people would treat him. He was a person just like me...regardless of his religious beliefs or where he was from.

The eeriest thing I remember was the next day. The day of silence. My brother-in-law and I drove to St. Louis to present our proposal for the Windows XP course. On a typical day, a number of planes fly overhead. You never notice them. That day I noticed the lack of them.

We didn't get that project and money was tight that fall. But sometimes projects fall through for a reason. Another project had fallen through during the summer -- a project that would have put me at JP Morgan on 9/11/2001.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Drama Days - and more to come

I've always been a drama geek. I acted in plays during high school and even went back after graduating to write and direct a melodrama. A few years ago John and I wrote and produced a mystery dinner theater production called The Soul Solicitor. I played the mourning widow -- and, of course, one of the suspects.
The Cast of The Soul Solicitor

The play was about zombies back before zombies were cool. Our zombies dressed like clowns. Everyone had fun, but the highlight was when my friend, Katie Miller, who played the neighborhood busy body, leaned over confidentially and told me that Kevin (one the zombies) had flipped off a preacher.  Come to find out, it was only an exercise in counting. Kevin's character was supposed to be missing a finger. When the preacher asked him how many years he'd worked for the company where the murder took place, Kevin held up his index finger and his middle finger. The preacher said "Didn't your index finger get bit off by the dog?" So, wanting to correct his lapse in character, Kevin lowered his index finger. Voila...the bird.

Anyway, the preacher found it all very funny. Everyone laughed. No hard feelings.

So I guess it's fitting that after writing a couple of short story collections, we decided to create a podcast. We started Shadow Realms. Click here to subscribe to the RSS feed.

Each episode is approximately 30 minutes long, so it's great for lunch hour relaxation. Right now, we have recorded versions of several of our short stories. We will soon also have excerpts from some Dime Store Novel books.

Speaking of audio and dramatization. We're thinking about creating dramatized audio books of the Dime Store Novel series. If we did, would you give them a listen? Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Playmaking for Girls -- an inspiration

Today I came across an article about how Synchonicity Theater, a non-profit group in Atlanta, Georgia, has been running a workshop called Playmaking for Girls. The workshop is held at detention centers and group homes. Girls who have ended up in these places for all sorts of reasons spend a week writing, directing, and acting in a play.

This is inspiring to me on so many levels. It encourages self-expression through the arts, gives the girls a reason to improve their reading, writing, and public speaking skills, and instills self-esteem where there might have been only self-doubt.

I am a firm believer in art as a gateway to the soul. Art can soothe. Art can inform. Art can elevate. Kudos to the Synchronicity Theater and the women who devote the time to running these workshops and encourage these girls to express their souls through art.

Learn more about Playmaking for Girls.
Learn more about Synchronicity Theater.