Friday, July 30, 2010

More Critter Pix

In Order of Appearance...

Kiki and Buffy

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Update: The Girls Have Settled In

Laverne and Shirley settled in by Sunday. As of today, they're officially spoiled rotten. Any time I go into the back yard, Shirley bleats at me as if I'm a sight for sore eyes -- and if I don't go right over and talk to her, her "baaa" turns into a drawn out wail that sounds almost like a human in the throes of a natural or man made disaster.

Today I wandered around and pulled down various species of tree branches filled with leaves for the girls to munch on. I noticed that whenever I take them for a walk they make a beeline to fallen leaves, so that was a clue... 

In other news...

Today I mowed and fertilized the lawn and then watered it really, really well. That's why the goats didn't get their "lawn hour" today and why I picked them leaves and branches instead.

Both of them jump onto the cable spools now -- and they often sleep atop them. Laverne is the bossy one; she pushes Shirley around by butting into her flank. I'm trying to discourage it, but I think it's just goat antics.  Shirley doesn't seem to mind all that much...

What else?  I'm making phone calls from home again as a volunteer for the State DEMS, encouraging voters to be sure and vote during the upcoming primary August 17th.

I'm making money at Elance. 

I just read two books -- by Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball. Carol's book ("This Time Together") has a chapter in it that had me laughing so hard I thought I was going to hurt myself internally. I have rarely laughed so hard in my life. It was about why the TV show PASSWORD went from LIVE to taped, and it happened while she and Elizabeth Montgomery were celebrity guests on the show.  What happened was so hysterical that Elizabeth Montgomery fell off her chair.  I can't repeat it here because it involves a word that is never used in general audiences -- or much of anywhere else.  God, I thought I was going to wake Jackie up, I laughed so long and so hard -- I cried and ached, I laughed so hard.

The rest of the book is good too, but this one incident alone is worth the price of admission... I promise you!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Local Author Nick Rogen Impresses Me

This weekend I stopped by a local BORDERS store with Dr. Mary Jo Robinson while she picked out a DVD. When I walked in the door a handsome young man was sitting at a table with a small stack of his book, A Life Worth Living.  Always eager to meet other writers, I stopped to say hello and read the back cover. Intrigued, I asked if the book is autobiographical; he said, "Yes, it is."

I leafed through a few pages, read a few lines, and decided to buy a copy. I asked Nick to sign it to me , which he did. We visited for another five minutes or so and then I re-joined Mary Jo on her quest for a DVD.

When I sat down for the evening, I picked up A Life Worth Living. Published by iUniverse (not unlike AuthorHouse, which published my first four books), it's a powerful, compelling story. I couldn't put it down.

Like most first-time authors, Nick's manuscript would have benefitted from having a second set of experienced eyes (an editor) look it over before he submitted it to iUniverse to publish, but let me assure you, it's easy to overlook the tome's few editing lapses because the story is an absolute page-turner from start to finish.

Nick has been through the wringer already in his young life: his mother struggled with schizophrenia for decades until she found a reliable drug to help her, leaving Nick to fend for himself at home pretty much while keeping an eye on his mom to prevent her from committing suicide during the depression phase of her disorder and to chase after her and cut her off at the pass to keep her from spending the family's income on a gambling addiction when her mood was on the upswing (into the stratosphere).

All of this responsibility at such a young age took its toll on Nick. He developed a predilection for one of his mom's prescribed drugs (which he pilfered once to calm his intense anxiety, then went out and scored his own prescription for it by feigning -- or capitalizing on -- his own ADD tendencies).  From then on, and for years, he battled his own dependency on mind-altering drugs while continuing to try to keep his mother stabilized on hers.  It's a heartbreaking but ultimately triumphant story.  I'm glad Nick says at the outset that the story ends happily or I would have been on the edge of my seat the whole way through praying for just such an outcome. No youngster should be saddled with the responsibilities he had to deal with from a very young age... but alas, many do... and Nick's story should bring hope to a lot of them.

I give the book an A+ for Nick's storytelling ability and a C for editing. I hope next time he writes a book he'll tap me as a local editor. But as long as he gets someone professional (as all successful authors do) to burnish and buff up the few unfortunate blemishes (this book has numerous errors in punctuation, some clunky metaphors, and a number of sentences that are less powerful than they could be), he should enjoy a long and successful career as a writer.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to sit, read, and vicariously cheer on a formerly-troubled, extremely talented new author who has laid bare both his journey and his soul to help others who are facing immense life challenges and personal demons of their own. I also recommend it for those who wonder how the wonderful kids they know could have ended up addicted to drugs. Most don't get there simply on a lark. Something in this life is so unsettling and beyond their own control that a lot of kids opt for a prescription drug to take the edge off their anxiety and fear. Many addictions start innocently enough, then take over with a vengeance. Nick's story shows there can be light at the end of the tunnel.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Goat Antics....

This afternoon I put the goats on a common, long rope and took them for a walk.  As soon as they started following me reliably, I dropped the rope and started running like a madwoman away from them.  They bleated and took off after me as though thinking I was trying to abandon them! I ran into their pen -- they followed. I ran out of their pen -- they followed.

So I'm officially "Mama Goat" tonight. WOO HOO!!! Jackie will see if she can catch us in action with a video camera tonight or later this week. If so, I'll attach it here so we can share the smiles with y'all...  You really gotta see it to appreciate it.

Following "MomGoat Kris" FAST to the holding pen

Laverne and Shirley in Action Close-Up

More Goat Pix

Click on photos to enlarge them...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Meet Laverne and Shirley (Not Twins After All)

From Top to Bottom

Kris and Laverne
Kris and Shirley
Casey and Shirley

One of the twins had a rash on her udder, so the seller didn't want to send her home with us. Jackie chose the red/brown goat as her replacement, since she knew I loved and wanted the red goat but just didn't want to break up identical twin sisters. We've named the girls Laverne & Shirley, at least for now.  (Another geat idea was Mocha and Latte, but Laverne & Shirley gave us such a laugh that we're probably keeping those names. My niece/Jackie's daughter-in-law Wendy came up with both pairs of names. Clever lady, huh?!)

The red/brown one is Laverne.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Surprise Coming This Weekend...

This weekend -- I hope by Saturday evening -- I will be able to unveil something I've been working on feverishly for five days. I'm waiting to make the announcement because I want to include photos of "the happening" -- and the happening isn't happening until Saturday morning sometime.

I'll give you a few hints:

I had to build a holding pen and enclose a portion of an outlying wood shed (see above photo) to accommodate the newest members of the family.

They're four month old twins. Identical twins, I think. (I couldn't tell them apart when Jackie and I went to look at them last weekend.)

They're mammals.

They're awfully cute... and I've never had one of their kind before. (Now, THAT limits the field by a bunch because I've had cats, dogs, skunks, ferrets, hawks, horses, cattle, sheep, a serval, and more!)

It has taken me four whole days to dig fence posts, stretch wire, get some "play toys," buy feeders and frame and enclose  a shed for these critters. I'm sore, bruised, scraped, burned, battered -- and wildly excited.  It's costing a small bundle but the idea is to help Jackie with some of her outdoor work on the periphery of our property.

Have you guessed the species, yet?

If not (or even if so), you'll be able to meet our newest family members just two days from now... so, stay tuned!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Writing Life -- Wordsmith Wisdom

"Do what you love -- the money will follow."

"Follow your bliss."

These quotes have spoken to me -- resonated mightily -- my entire life. It's rather appalling to me now that I didn't obey them decades sooner and hang my writing shingle a long time ago.

I've been a writer all my life -- I just didn't BELIEVE (rely on) it before 2007 as a means of income. And that's a shame. But I'm relying on it now and it makes me feel happy, alive and contributory. 

I was a spectator before - left like an alien. The work I did before 2007 (executive secretary, administrative assistant,  etc.) was an act, a role, and I felt like a fraud. Even though I was very good at it, it wasn't me -- it's what was "expected" of me by others (loved ones) who never really felt I could make it as a writer -- and they communicated that to me in unspoken ways. To this day, a couple of them still do, but it's out of concern/worry and love and I accept it as such (instead of as a judgment of my ability).  I just don't adopt or embrace their concern and worry anymore -- which helps enormously! 

I have developed complete faith in myself as a communicator (on paper!). I've honed the craft and often impress myself these days with what I come up with (which was a rarity years ago). I know who I am when I write: a craftsman... a wordsmith... a
force of nature.

Oddly enough, instead of this knowledge making me proud or arrogant, it makes me humble. Words can be whispers, wonders or weapons; it's all in how you wield them.

My passion to write was a gift I was given before birth. I was CREATED to write -- I didn't DECIDE to write. From the moment I learned how to build sentences I've been captivated by stringing words together, pulling out thoughts and feelings and putting them on paper to reach out and touch others. God gave me the passion to write and the perseverence (addiction!) to keep at it in journals, letters, and blogs all along the way, even when writing for a living seemed quixotic.

It isn't always EASY - but it's nearly always enjoyable. That's because I only accept projects that I feel certain I'll ace and enjoy. I freely decline Elance projects  that are offered to me if the subject matter or formats don't resonate with me.

My criteria for selecting projects begins with one rule: What I agree to write has to matter in some way -- not just to my clients, but to me. It has to help someone in a significant way.

I don't take projects solely to make money -- I take work that will make a difference in the realms where I agree making a difference is vital. On the few occasions (early on) when I haven't followed this Prime Directive, I've regretted it, so I don't do it anymore. My heart has to be in it or I can get miserable pretty fast!

I'm going to turn down two new projects tomorrow -- ones that came ONLY to me (as an invitation) -- because they don't float my boat. I have plenty other clients to keep me busy right now, and besides... I turned down a project last month from a former client because it was finance-related (YAWN!) and he just got back to me with a project that I want to do... so I've discovered that I don't lose clients by being true to my Prime Directive; it shows folks that I'm in it for MORE THAN THE MONEY, that I must be as passionate about every project I accept as the client is. That way we both know that what I agree to do is going to receive my complete focus and best effort.

I have a really great client now who is referring his clients (who need copywriters) to me these days. The only "problem" (I say with a grin) that I have with him -- and them -- is that they think (or have been taught) that long form sales letters and landing pages are the ONLY way to go -- even for $39 items. It drives me nuts! 

For starters, I despise writing long-form sales copy, and unless the product or service is expensive (more than $100) or not well understood, I think a 500-word sales piece is entirely sufficient. My rationale: most Internet seekers are busy people who just want to find what they need and buy it; having to slog through 1600 words of copy to find the offer drives them crazy. (I know it does ME -- and I love reading and writing! Many people don't!)

So today, per instructions from one of these wonderful gents, I adapted two 1600+ word landing pages and then wrote a third, 500 word landing page for the same offer. I'm absolutely convinced it will convert better than the "war and peace" (long form) copy.

The offer is for busy Adwords users who have wasted ENOUGH time and money already trying to get their ads to convert seekers into buyers. I singled 'em out right up front (target audience), gave 'em the scoop (identified the offer), gave 'em the guarantee of satisfaction, and provided links to their ordering options. My copy is powerful, concise and convincing -- but in no way bland (as the above description might seem to indicate). I provided no story line beyond what they can expect the service to do for them -- which is a LOT, while saving them oodles of time and even more money. Their decision should be a no-brainer if they fit the profile I outlined. They'll whip out their credit cards before they get halfway through the 480 words. They'd be nuts not to take the trial offer... absolutely NUTS! I want to take it -- and I don't even fit the profile!!!

In the long form copy the offer is so completely hidden in non-essential, feel-good colloquial chat that it seems whoever wrote it is trying to coerce the reader into a less-than-stellar deal. I'm not saying the copy isn't good -- it's fine for what it is -- but it goes on FOREVER and that's a waste of people's time. The offer is so good that the copy should have them almost at "hello."

A great $39-$99 offer doesn't have to overcome the seeker's "sticker shock," so the more concise and direct the copy, the better, in my opinion.

I think the client is going to split test the three ads, so we'll see shortly how they compete against each other. If my copy doesn't convert better, I'll be enormously surprised. If it does, they'll learn something new: why spend 3-6 hours writing a 1600 word ad (or pay a copywriter to do it) when a 500 word ad works better?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Women's Right to Vote Came HARD! Women, VOTE!

I had never read about this! Isn’t it amazing that in school we were never told about this. I think every American woman needs to know this and teach it to her daughters. Amazing. I would love to see the movie.

This is the story of our Mothers and Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'

(Lucy Burns)

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

(Dora Lewis)

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.

(Alice Paul)

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because - why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie 'Iron Jawed Angels.' It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the
actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

(Berthe Arnold, CSU graduate)

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. 'One thought kept coming

back to me as I watched that movie,' she said. 'What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.'

The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her 'all over again.'

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.'

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you
know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Remember to vote in Nov.

History is being made. Women need to write their part of it.
Thanks to JC Waters for sending the following to me...