3 Day Quote Challenge: Awareness

quote Thich Nhat HanhThe other day, one of my favorite people and bloggers, Stephanie Ortez, challenged me to write three consecutive blog posts about awareness, using relevant quotes. I’m not sure if I’ll manage to write all three, but I’m giving it a go with this one.

Awareness—or mindfulness—for me is about being in the moment: experiencing a brief period of time and embracing it for what it is, because it’s a unique experience.

I first became aware of this practice when I was at a local park one day with my kids, who were toddlers at the time. I was chatting with another mom, or maybe I should say I was prattling on, as I tend to do sometimes. If I recall correctly, I was brainstorming out loud about vacation ideas and career plans: popular topics of conversation among stay-at-home parents. But instead of chiming in with her ideas, the other mom dropped a little buzzkill on me by saying, “I’m really just trying to live in the moment as much as possible these days.”

Huh? To say I was stunned would be an understatement. I mean, we were pushing our kids on swings on a humid summer day, and I was also keeping a strict eye on my son in the sandbox, who had a tendency to bite other kids when he got angry. I was dying for a glass of cold water while desperately needing to pee, and there were no facilities of any kind at the park. In other words, talking about jobs and vacations felt like a welcome diversion, and I couldn’t understand why would anyone want to savor that particular moment.

Of course, I understand now. Those relatively carefree moments at the park may be slightly stressful and rough on the bladder, but they’re also fleeting. Both of my kids are now in high school, and although I realize I no longer have the physical energy to care for toddlers, I wouldn’t mind going back to that moment for just a little while, and I’m grateful to the other mom who introduced me to mindfulness, and helped me focus more on seemingly insignificant times.

Nowadays, I try to be mindful whenever I can. The world is becoming an increasingly scary place, and there are days when I’m almost paralyzed by the fear of what will happen to my children as they navigate the teen years. Will they make dangerous choices? Get involved in the wrong things? Associate with people who will lead them into dark places. And while I fret about the future, I also worry about the past. Did I teach them the right stuff? And what about all the other people who’ve influenced my children’s thinking? I’m sure everyone has had good intentions, but have serious errors been made?

And here’s the most frustrating part. The answer to all these questions is who knows? Really. Who the hell knows?

That’s why I’m grateful for mindfulness. Because without it, I wouldn’t be typing right now. I wouldn’t be enjoying this quiet moment. I’d probably be crying, pacing, or envisioning various versions of the future: some peaceful, some tragic.

Instead, though, I’m doing my best to focus on breathing, and appreciating that I’m in a warm place with a roof over my head. A minute from now, the dog will probably jump up and demand his dinner, or the phone could ring, informing me of some triumph or tragedy.

We’ve seen terrible things happen recently all around the world. Closer to home, there are people in my life who are hurting terribly. Hence, I’ve been spending a lot of time hoping and praying that things will improve, hoping people can be healed physically and emotionally.

Meanwhile, as the holidays press closer, many people are anticipating joy, togetherness, warmth and love. Others expect pain and isolation. But again, who knows? Almost anything—good or bad—can happen in a second and everything can change.

In the end, then, the only thing we really have—the only thing we can be truly certain of—is this moment right now. And so, if you can, take a deep breath and feel it for what it is. Honor the emotions you’re feeling, embrace them, and realize they’re yours. Never again will you feel exactly like this.

OK? And when the moment’s over, try to be kind to someone else. Make a phone call, help someone with a chore, give someone you care about a hug. In other words, share the mindfulness. Give another person a reason to cherish a moment too.

If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, here’s a wonderful article by Thich Nhat Hanh, pictured above.

Posted in awareness, mindfulness, living in the moment, life, parenting, reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Go See Jonathan Richman if You Can!

jonathanIf you’ve watched Jonathan Richman play live, you don’t need to read this post. You already know why seeing him is a life-affirming experience like no other, and if you live near any of his upcoming tour dates, perhaps you’ve already got tickets.

This post, then, is intended for those who haven’t seen Richman in concert. But perhaps you’ve heard of him anyway.

You may recall his early days as the “Godfather of Punk” and frontman for the legendary Modern Lovers, best known (to me anyway) for songs like “Roadrunner” and “Pablo Picasso.” Richman grew up in Natick, Massachusetts, and wrote “Roadrunner” as a musical homage to the Velvet Underground song “Sister Ray.” But unlike “Sister Ray”, its lyrics are about driving around the suburbs of Boston late at night with the radio on. Now, since I also grew up in the Massachusetts suburbs, “Roadrunner” was a standard on the beloved local radio station WBCN. (RIP, BCN). I probably heard “Roadrunner” at least once a week as a kid/teenager, but because it was something I grew up with, I didn’t pay all that much attention. I was more interested in “complicated” artists like Queen, Bowie, Roxy Music, and a whole bunch of others. I didn’t yet recognize the genius of Richman’s garage stylings and direct delivery. I do recall wondering–probably around age thirteen or fourteen–why anyone would write a song about driving past the Stop & Shop. I mean really? There was a Stop & Shop supermarket in my hometown, and it was the farthest thing from glamorous. Of course, I was too young and dumb to realize that that was the whole point. Anyway, here’s my favorite version of “Roadrunner.” It’s been covered by lots of artists–from Joan Jett to the Sex Pistols to Phish–but nobody does it justice like Jonathan.

Or perhaps, like some people, you first became acquainted with Richman when his song, “Pablo Picasso” was covered by the Burning Sensations in the movie Repo Man. I saw that movie in the 80s, and noticed the song, but had no idea it was written by the same guy who wrote “Roadrunner.” But, in fact, “Pablo Picasso” might be Richman’s most famous song of all. It’s been covered by Bowie and John Cale, as well as the Burning Sensations and so many others. Richman doesn’t play it much–if ever–in concert anymore, but here’s his version of it with the Modern Lovers.

In truth, though, I didn’t think about Jonathan Richman much–one way or another–until somewhere around 1995, when I was about thirty-one and my boyfriend (now husband) asked if I wanted to go see him at the Middle East nightclub in Cambridge. I think my response was something like “sure.” I don’t know what, if anything, I expected, as in those days, my future husband and I saw a lot of bands. But the Richman show really surprised me, because although he was a terrific singer and musician, he was also a true storyteller. I was completely taken by his sincerity, honesty, and willingness to put himself out there a hundred percent on stage. Even then, though, I didn’t exactly become a superfan. Blame it on being in a relatively new relationship, struggling to figure out what I wanted to do for a career, having an eating disorder, and whatever else was happening in my life in those days, but I didn’t consider the show a life-changer. In my opinion, it was just a really good one. I couldn’t find a video from that exact show online, but here’s Jonathan doing “Let Her Go Into the Darkness” on Conan O’Brien during that same time period.

Shortly thereafter, Jonathan was featured fairly prominently in the movie There’s Something About Mary So even if you’re not familiar with him by name, if you saw that movie, you might remember the troubadour and drummer who played and sang at different points throughout it. Well that was Jonathan Richman and his longtime drummer Tommy Larkins. Here they are playing “Something About Mary” at the late, great, Joey Ramone’s birthday party in 1998. And no, as far as I know, Jonathan didn’t write the song about me :)

Are you feeling it yet? Fast forward to 2014, when Mike and I went out to see him at the Middle East again. By this point, he’d stripped his act down completely to just acoustic guitar and the phenomenal Tommy Larkins on drums. I can honestly say that it was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, and it entered the realm of what I’d call life-altering. The entire experience was such a unique blend of humor, romance, intrigue, and honesty. I think it’d be safe to say that everyone in the room was in love with Jonathan that night. Once again, I couldn’t find a video online from that exact performance, but here he is doing “Keith Richards” at the Bumbershoot in Seattle in 2014.

And then, just this past Tuesday, Mike and I went out to see Jonathan at the Somerville Theater. Both of us were a little worried that the show might not be a great as the one in 2014, and we even briefly considered staying home, in order to preserve that wonderful previous memory. But in the end, we went and were really glad we did. The songs were all different, but the passion, joy, sadness, romance, and beauty remained intact. During the show, Jonathan talked about the importance of human interaction, and said he doesn’t own a cell phone. Nor does he own a computer. He finds beauty in everyday things like talking to people who work at truck stops, and the quirky nature of humans. As an encore, he sang “As My Mother Lay Lying,” about his mom’s death in a nursing home, and pretty much everyone in attendance was brought to tears. But Jonathan reminded us not to feel sad, because the song is about the beauty of nature and life. Then he and Tommy waved goodbye and were gone. I walked out into the cool evening air reminded of so many things I take for granted, and wishing technology weren’t so much a part of my everyday life.

It seems ironic, then, to be blogging about the experience and embedding all these YouTube videos into the text. And yet, three days later, I can’t stop thinking about the performance, and believe the best way I can keep the flame alive (so to speak) is to recommend that people who love simple, honest music and exquisite storytelling do what they can to see one of Richman’s live performances. I promise that the videos here don’t even hint at the magic of the real thing.

Here’s a recorded version of “As My Mother Lay Lying”, as I couldn’t find a good live one to post.

And just because, here’s a short interview with Jonathan and Tony Wilson in London, back in 1978, when Jonathan was just a kid. It gives me goosebumps to see him saying this stuff almost forty years ago and still holding true to the same values today.

Have you been to  Jonathan Richman show? If so, what did you think? I’d love to hear your comments. Thanks so much for reading!

Posted in honesty, jonathan richman, live events, live music, music, sincerity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

FREE Kindle Books (Including Mine) for Everyone–Until 11/14

prefunk graphic

My publisher, Booktrope, in conjunction with Runaway Goodness, is giving away over 200 Kindle books this week in a promotion called Prefunk the Holidays.

It’s a pretty amazing promotion, with books in almost every imaginable genre being given away, and you can search the Prefunk list by genre. But the free part ends on 11/14, so don’t wait. After 11/14, all books in the promo will be specially priced at $2.99 until November 30.

The two novels I currently have published with Booktrope, Living by Ear and Leaving the Beach are part of this promo, so if you haven’t had a chance to check them out, now you can get them totally free!

124_0.036824001390495169_beach_cover-bpfbtLeaving the Beach is the story of a bulimic woman obsessed with music and rock icons. Although it’s pure fiction, it certainly draws on my own experiences with music and eating disorders. It has never before been offered free of charge.

high-res cover LBELiving by Ear is about a mom in her forties trying to resurrect her music career while also struggling with serious marital issues. This is the first time it’s been offered for free since Booktrope republished it.

OK! So have a great week, and treat yourself to some FREE new books!!

Posted in books, free, promo, promotion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Something Completely Different: The Best Lipstick Ever

lip butterIf you read my blog, you know I don’t normally write about beauty products. Except on the extremely rare occasion that I do, because I’ve discovered something I believe some readers might like.

And yes: first world problems. I get it. Nothing about this post will help make the earth a better place. The most it could possibly achieve is reducing the number of “wrong” lipsticks bought and discarded. Then again, you might hate my new favorite lipstick; thus, your tube will end up in the trash, increasing the amount of junk on our planet. Therefore, I think it’s fair to say that this post has negligible value.

But for the record, this lipstick has made my life a little more stress-free, and perhaps it’ll do the same for you.

Let me start by saying I’m not a person who feels the need to wear lipstick every day, but ever since elementary school, I’ve appreciated a good lip balm. In the old days, it was basic cherry Chap-Stick, but as I grew older, I discovered that I preferred balms made with more natural oils like safflower, argan, and castor seed (rather than petrolatum). They went on more smoothly and seemed to moisturize better.

But somewhere around the time I got out of college and started working, I also realized I wanted to add some color to my lips at times. And anyone who’s ventured into the world of lipstick knows there are lots of options. I started out with basic, inexpensive drugstore brands, only to find that most were too waxy, gooey, pasty, or shiny to wear on a regular basis. I’d buy one, use it for a few weeks, then either get sick of it or lose it. Or, on a really unlucky day, it would melt in my purse and make a terrible mess.

Eventually, I decided to “go professional” and seek out the assistance of beauty consultants in department stores. But even then, I was never able to find the “perfect” one. One memorable experiment was a Chanel product that smelled amazing and came in a little case with a paintbrush for easy application. I loved the dark-but-neutral color, but every time I’d wear it, I’d find myself desperate for a glass of water after about an hour. To this day, I don’t know what it was about that lipstick, but it seemed to dry out both my lips and my mouth.

Then, I went through a Mac Russian Red phase. If you know Russian Red, you know it’s a great-feeling lipstick in an iconic color, but it was too much for me. I guess I’m just not fancy enough for something so bright and noticeable, because every single time I’d go someplace wearing that lipstick, I’d end up in the restroom, wiping it off with a tissue.

Next, I tried lip stains. I walked into Sephora one day and asked the makeup consultant for a good one, because I’d heard stains were the “next generation” in lip color. The woman suggested one made by Tarte, and it seemed to serve all my lipstick needs. Then, one day, after wearing it for a few hours, I noticed it was fading in blotches. Yes, like I said, first world problems. I continued to use that stain and even bought a new tube when the original ran out, but it wasn’t particularly cheap, and I didn’t love it.

Hence, I reached the conclusion that lipstick was one of those things that just couldn’t be perfect for me. It was always going to be problematic in one way or another, and if I chose to wear it, I’d need to deal with the consequences. Most of the time, I’d just slap on some natural mint lip balm from Trader Joe’s and go about my business.

But over the summer, my daughter suggested that I might like a certain drugstore brand called NYX Butter Lipstick. Of course I was skeptical—especially since this stuff retails at stores like CVS and Target for about five or six dollars a tube, but I figured it was worth a try. The shade my daughter suggested was called Pops, which has recently been changed to Root Beer Float.

Well, I can’t even tell you how much I love this stuff. It contains no petrolatum, and feels much more like a lip balm than a lipstick. It doesn’t dry my lips at all; in fact, it actually seems to moisturize them. And the color is nice and subtle. I know everyone’s lips are a slightly different color, but this one seems fairly universal. It doesn’t bleed, so no lipliner is necessary—not that I’ve ever mastered the art of lipliner—and it stays on for hours without getting blotchy.

And it costs about six dollars! Once I discovered how great it is, I actually bought two tubes: one for home and one to keep in my purse, and it’s possible that this will be my brand for life. (Unless, of course, this brand gets discontinued, which I’m sure will happen someday). Until then, though, I’m a satisfied customer!

Above is a picture of the tube if you’re interested, and here’s a photo (lip selfie?) of me wearing it. Maybe none of this sounds appealing to you, but if it does, check it out. And if you do, please let me know what you think! Muah!!


Posted in beauty, beauty products, cosmetics, lipstick | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

How Do You Know When You’ve “Made It” as a Writer?

successHas it happened to you? Have you “made it” as a writer? I have! But before you read on, please note the quotation marks around the words made it. Because…well, you’ll understand soon if you don’t already. Here’s my story.

The year was 2007, it was autumn, and I’d been querying my first novel manuscript for about a year. I should probably put quotation marks around the word novel too, because I’m not sure if that manuscript actually qualified as a novel. But back then, as far as I was concerned, it certainly did. Not only was it a novel, but quite possibly a bestseller. Although I was pretty sure it’d work even better on the big screen. And everyone knows selling film rights is the real definition of writing success. Right?

What genre was this manuscript? Good question! It started out like erotica, but then sort of became women’s fiction, then sort of became a mystery/thriller. And it had so many great elements. Sex! Romance! Betrayal! Sleazy characters! A gorgeous-but-suspicious house cleaner! Sexy guys who tour around as children’s entertainers, but are actually wild, partying rock musicians! (I sincerely wish I were joking about that last part, but I’m not.)

Several of the literary agents who took the time to formally reject the thing pointed out that the story had no discernible plot, and some noted that most of the characters were cardboard. At least one asked what the point of the whole thing was. And was there any lesson or message that the reader should take away? Well, no! It was literary fiction. And isn’t literary fiction supposed to keep you guessing?

You can see where this is going. I’d written over three hundred pages of utter crap. It was fun, though. While my kids had been in preschool, I’d sat on the couch hacking things out, day after day. Hmm, what should I write today? Oh! I know. I’ll write a chapter about a man and woman having dinner in a restaurant, but I’ll make it read like a lost episode of The Twilight Zone. Yeah. That’ll be cool. And it’ll be a nice contrast with the previous chapter, in which the man seemed totally normal, because in this chapter, he’ll be acting bizarre. Why so bizarre? Hmm. Maybe he’s on drugs, or maybe he’s just got a strange personality. Or maybe he’s a criminal! It would have to be up to the reader to figure things out, because the writer sure as hell didn’t have a clue.

Yes, this is embarrassing for me to admit, but that’s how I thought bestsellers got written. Years earlier, I’d fallen in love with movies like Blue Velvet, and had been left with the very arrogant impression that I could write something like that if I just took the time to do it. As if!

Anyway, one day in 2007 as I sat at my computer reading yet another rejection letter, my doorbell rang. It was a friend dropping something off, and when I told her of my difficulty finding a literary agent, she told me she had a personal connection with a very good and successful one. She and the agent weren’t exactly friends, but acquaintances, and maybe if I queried her, I’d get a better response.

I wrote to that agent immediately, and was surprised when she replied quickly, saying she’d like to see the first chapter. Excited, I sent it. A few days later, the agent wrote back, asking for another chapter or two. Then, she requested the full manuscript.

And that’s when I “made it.” In my head, of course. I’m not sure why I became so convinced that this was going to be it, but I did. The truth is that the beginning of the manuscript wasn’t so bad—especially since there was no real indication as to where it was headed—and other agents had also requested additional pages after reading the first couple of chapters. But this agent came with a personal connection, and, of course, I was tired of querying.

I should also mention that the holiday season was fast approaching, and I’m sure the agent was busy with holiday stuff. In any case, throughout November and December, I didn’t hear a peep from her. But instead of being rational and assuming she had other things on her mind besides my silly manuscript, I assumed she was crazy about it. She’s probably reading and rereading it, trying to figure out how to sell it at the highest price. Or maybe she’s talking to film producers already.

My holidays, therefore, were pretty good. I went to various parties and events feeling a true glow inside. By next holiday season, I’d think, I might be up for an Oscar! Or no, maybe not next year, but the year after, because it takes a while to make a good movie. When people asked what I’d been up to, I’d tell them I’d finished a manuscript and had my fingers crossed about something really big. And each time I’d say that, I’d believe a little more strongly that my story was going to explode—in a good way.

And here’s the hardest part for me to admit. I developed something of a haughty attitude. I’m normally a pretty humble person, but the prospect of becoming a superstar brought out some undesirable aspects of my personality. Sometimes, I’d just waste time fantasizing about the dresses I’d wear on the red carpet, but other times, I’d actually think of myself as a cut above my friends and fellow writers. After all, they were still working at normal jobs, raising families, or hacking away at short stories, screenplays, or novel manuscripts. But I was Hollywood bound.

Then, one Friday in January, I woke up feeling anxious and shaky. And later in the day, things got worse. Terrifying, disgusting, and shocking thoughts kept going through my mind and getting stuck there. I truly believed I was having a breakdown of some sort, and made an emergency call to my therapist. She agreed to see me first thing Monday morning, and helped me understand that I was suffering from a common anxiety symptom called obsessive thoughts. She also gave me some good strategies to stop those thoughts from controlling my life, and assured me they’d go away if I practiced the strategies.

But of course, she also asked if I was particularly stressed about anything. I told her about my “prospective book deal,” (imagine that!) and the movie deal I was also hoping for, and she asked if I was worried about what fame might mean for my family and me. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that not only was I terrified of fame, but of what it was already doing to me. Who was I becoming? What had happened to regular old Mary? And what would happen if my fantasies became reality?

Well, as you might guess, I never found out. A few days later, the manuscript appeared on my doorstep, along with a lovely note from the agent, explaining why the story wasn’t working for her.

Of course, I cried. And questioned, and screamed a bit. But eventually I paid attention to what her note actually said, and realized I had a lot of work to do. I went back to the drawing board, starting a new manuscript, but also reading lots of books about plot and character development. I read novels and watched movies critically, paying attention not only to the stories, but how the writers conveyed those stories.

But as all that was happening and I began to write more purposefully, I also grew increasingly aware that my idea of “making it” as a novelist was pretty screwy. Yes, I’ve now got a wonderful agent and publisher, but what I really want is to become a better writer each day. Because writing isn’t about making money, or winning awards, or walking red carpets. Sure, those things happen sometimes, but some of the best writers I know have never achieved any of that, and don’t really aspire to it.

The other day, however, a writer I really respect shared a note she’d received from an anonymous reader. The note told the writer that her words had helped the reader—who’s suffering from serious medical issues—to keep breathing for another day. Now that’s my definition of “making it.”

Posted in literature, movie deals, novel writing, publishing, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Halloween Book Hop–Tricks and Treats for Everyone!

Halloween Hop Button (1)Hi Readers,

I wanted to let you know that I’m participating in a fun Halloween Book Hop this year. Over 130 authors from many different genres and publishers are taking part, and every one is offering either a “trick” or a “treat” to people who visit their Facebook page.

Today, I’m giving out pdfs of LIVING BY EAR to anyone who clicks on my Facebook author page and leaves a comment about Halloween.

And if you’d like to check out the entire blog hop and visit ALL the sites, here’s a link to the event. It runs until October 31st, and there’s lots of stuff to win.

Have fun, and happy Halloween!

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Rain and the Radio

cosmos rain again

What is it about a rainy day in autumn that resurrects sad memories in a pretty way?

Is it the dull, brooding mirror of the pavement?

Or the resolute fall flowers on the curb, standing up to the wind and chill?

Or maybe it’s Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith on the radio,

alive as ever,

Notes and words broken in pain but promising to be here

longer than any of us.

Posted in #musictuesday, autumn, music, musing, poem, poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Joy of Running in the Rain


No, it’s not glamorous, but at least I got a kiss at the end!

Why don’t more people run in the rain? This is a question I’ve asked myself for over thirty years, and today, I’m putting it online, hoping to get some answers.

Sure, I understand why people avoid the rain if they’re dressed up or going someplace where they won’t be able to change their clothes. Sitting around in wet clothing all day or night sucks. But most runners I’ve met over the years get pretty sweaty when they exercise and take a shower afterwards anyway, so what’s the big deal with getting wet outdoors? Especially when there’s a beautiful, warm rain, like today?

Yesterday–a shiny, sunny morning–when the dog and I went out for our morning jog, we saw at least twenty runners. We live in a highly populated area, and we’re lucky to have some great trails nearby. In fact, these trails are so busy on sunny days that they can actually be dangerous. (The danger comes from bikers who don’t always play nice with people on foot, but let’s not talk about that.) Today, however, we literally had the trails to ourselves, as we saw absolutely no other runners. And it was far from the first time. Ever since I started running in high school, I’ve noticed this odd phenomenon. People love to run in the sunshine, but most take a day off or exercise indoors whenever the sky decides to unleash some water.

I’ll admit that getting started isn’t always easy. That first jump out of the nice, dry house into the rain is a little like plunging into a swimming pool. Despite the fact that our bodies are more than fifty percent water, most of us have a natural aversion to that sudden change from dry to wet. But once you’re thoroughly soaked, it feels so refreshing, particularly on a warm day. No need to worry about overheating; you’ve got nature’s free misting tent all around you. Given the choice between a hot, sunny day, and a warm, rainy one, I’ll take the rainy one every time.

Yes, your sneakers will get wet, and I agree that’s not the greatest thing. I do try to avoid large puddles, and sometimes take the insoles out of the shoes when I get home to help them dry more quickly. But I’ve also put wet shoes on many times, and it’s not so bad.

So here’s my suggestion: if you’ve been missing the opportunity to run in the rain, give it a shot. You might find that you love it too.

Posted in animals, dogs, exercise, rain, running | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Sharing Opinions with our Children

cuter spencerLast week, while out jogging with the dog, I passed a group of parents, kids, and a couple of other dogs waiting at a school bus stop. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my mutt isn’t the world’s mellowest critter. Sometimes when he sees other animals, he’ll pull on the leash and try to greet them; other times, he’ll growl or bark. This time, though, he ran along calmly beside me, and didn’t even glance at the crowd gathered at the bus stop, despite the fact that a little white dog was barking at him.

“Mom,” said one of the kids. “Look at that doggie. He’s so cute.”

I smiled to myself and whispered, “Good boy.”

So it was a little surprising to hear the mother’s reply to her child. “No he’s not! That dog’s not cute at all.

What? I kept on running—starting an argument at a bus stop about a dog’s attractiveness isn’t my style—but I was a little hurt. Then we turned a corner and all was temporarily forgotten.

Later on, though, the incident crossed my mind again. And this time, it bothered me for a different reason. I mean, why would a parent say that to a child in such a definitive way? Perhaps, if she really found my dog so aesthetically unpleasing, she could have said, “I don’t think he’s cute, but maybe some people do.” That way, the child could form his or her own opinion.

I was feeling very self-righteous until I remembered visiting the local pet store with my own kids when they were very young. The store sold all kinds of creatures—fish, lizards, small rodents, birds—and we’d browse in there from time to time. But the one thing I avoided in that place was the ferret area. The ferrets were kept in a large glass case with a vent on the top, and the stench from the case was overwhelming. I don’t think the smell came from the ferrets themselves, but from their waste, which mustn’t have been cleaned frequently enough. In any event, the smell made me want to vomit, and I recall telling my kids—on more than one occasion—that “ferrets are disgusting.”

But that wasn’t cool! I mean, I may not be a huge ferret fan (sorry ferret fans) but I was doing the exact same thing as the woman who declared my dog un-cute. And you know what? Despite the fact that my kids love animals and have asked for pretty much every type of pet imaginable—we currently have a dog, a cat, and some fish—they’ve never asked for a ferret. And I can’t help but wonder if that’s because I instilled in them, at very young ages, that ferrets are repulsive.

Thinking more on the topic, I realize I’ve been sharing other opinions with my kids as well, and stating them as absolute facts. For example, there are a couple of musicians and bands (I won’t name them, OK?) that I’ve forbidden on my car radio. Is it because these musicians offend me with obscene or racist lyrics? No. As far as I know, they don’t write offensive material. They’ve simply been banned because, as my kids will tell you, “Mom says they suck.” Hmm. Not very objective, huh? Perhaps I could’ve told my children, “I don’t care for XY’s music, but lots of people love it, so you should decide for yourself what you think.” Of course, it’s common knowledge that kids will often choose to listen to the exact music their parents despise just to piss them off, so maybe I’ll get my comeuppance some day. Maybe one of them will run off and elope with someone on my “banned list”—and go live on a ferret farm—or maybe they’ll blast bad music at my funeral. If so, I guess I’ll deserve it.

Anyway, I’m now making it a goal to be more careful about voicing opinions to my children. They’re teenagers now, after all, and will soon be adults, making adult decisions and possibly passing their views on to their own offspring. So will I continue to tell them that Donald Trump’s a buffoon? No! Instead, I’ll say I don’t think he’d make a great president, but every American has a right to vote for his or her favorite candidate. Is liver the most repulsive excuse for food ever put on a plate? No, it’s simply not something I enjoy, but it’s packed with nutrients.

cute spencerOn the other hand, our dog is freaking adorable. Sorry, woman at the bus stop. You’re wrong about him!

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Tips to Keep Your Feline Companion Healthy

gray cat green eyesHi Readers! Today, I’m very pleased to welcome guest blogger Jordan Walker. Like me, Jordan is very passionate about animals. He has written several contents about this subject as the lead content curator for Coops and Cages, and was kind enough to offer a post for my blog. In this article, he gives tips on how your cat should be maintained to ensure their good health. So without further ado, here’s Jordan!


For many cat lovers out there, we don’t just consider our feline companions as pets but more like as a family. As such, we want them to have the best health possible for a long and happy life. So, here are tips to ensure that your “furry family” will have the good life they truly deserve:

Safety is Always a Priority

One of your major responsibilities in ensuring the safety of your feline family is to cat-proof your house. Many of our household items pose threat to the health and safety of our cats.

Since cats are very curious by nature, make sure that nothing risky will catch their attention. For example, a dangling electrical cord will surely attract your cat, and this may have devastating consequences. Close your washer; keep them away from your gas range, and basically make sure that your cat can safely roam, explore and play inside your house.

Keeping your cats indoors might be best for them since there are several elements and other animals outside that may be hazardous to your cat. However, if your cat is already used to the great outdoors, you will have to ask your veterinarian for ways to help your cat transition to the comforts of the indoors. In case you need to walk him outside or transfer him to another location, use a leash or a carrier.

tiger cat with bowlHealthy Diet is Essential

Although it can be very tempting to turn your cat into a cuddly ball of fur, an overweight cat tends to have a shorter lifespan.

Ask your vet for nutritious cat food and treats, and seek advice on the proper amount and frequency of feeding. Also, provide them with fresh and clean water every time.

tiger cat closeupSpay or Neuter Your Cat

Animal shelters receive animals on a daily basis – those which are lost, homeless, or have been abandoned. You can help avoid this by having your cat spayed or neutered.

This will not only lessen the population of unwanted cats but also bring about other benefits. For one, studies have shown that a spayed or neutered pet has lower risk for cancer. Also for cats, this decreases their tendency to roam; thus, the risk of them getting lost is at a minimum or can be avoided completely.

puffy catAdequate Exercise and Time

Like most other animals, cats need to have adequate exercise. Not because they are indoors, they are to be deprived of any outdoor activity. While most cats love to entertain themselves, regular play sessions with them will provide them enough physical and mental stimulation.

Give them safe toys and scratch-post to keep them busy when they are not grooming themselves or asleep in their nook. You can also let them play with other animals as long as they are safe. Nonetheless, the best thing you can give your furry friend is some love and quality time. A simple cuddling session after a day’s work can be very comforting for both of you.

cat on floorProper Grooming is a Must

Regardless of your cat’s fur length, it needs regular grooming and brushing to keep their skin and coats healthy. This will also prevent matting and reduce hairball formation and shedding. Contrary to common knowledge, cats can actually be bathed. The earlier you introduce them to bathing, the easier they will adapt to it. Additionally, have their claws clipped to prevent these from growing into their paws.

Regular grooming will also give you an opportunity to check for skin conditions, injuries, lumps and even fleas. Fleas are definitely a nuisance which can cause skin irritation, hair loss, infection, etc. Also, all it takes is one swallowed flea for your cat to have tapeworms, which is a very common internal parasite. If you are having a major problem with flea or worm control, talk with your vet.

cat teethYes, They Also Need Dental Care

Dental problems – abscess, tooth loss, tooth pain, gum disease – are common in many animals, and your cat is not an exemption.

Studies have shown that about 70% of cats start to show signs of dental problems by age three. The good news is, this is preventable. Through regular brushing or oral cleaning, your cat’s teeth are kept strong and healthy.

cat at vetRegular Veterinary Checks are Vital

You may never know that there is something wrong until your cat starts to show signs of a problem. With regular visits to your veterinarian, you can ensure that your cat’s health is maintained and receives the necessary vaccinations. Regular check-ups will also help detect possible problems in their earliest stage so that appropriate solutions are employed before these become worse.

Having a cat as part of your family comes with certain responsibilities. Like any other pet, your feline companion requires love, safe environment, proper nutrition, time and veterinary care. Ensuring that all these are properly met will provide your furry family with a long and healthy life he will surely enjoy to the fullest.


Author: Jordan Walker

jordanwalkerJordan is the lead content curator for Coops And Cages as well as a couple of other pet related blogs. His passion for animals is only matched by his love for ‘attempting’ to play the guitar. If you would like to catch him, you can via Twitter: @JordanWalker82

Posted in animals, cats, family, guest blog, guest post, health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments