Hillbilly Zen – “Say Your Name” – Blogging 101

 

Today’s assignment: edit your title and tagline. Make your readers’ first impression a good one!

I’m happy with my blog title, but adding a tagline is a possibility.  The tips included in this Blogging 101 assignment are helpful;  give your readers an idea of what you’re about, make it unique, etc.

Most of you guys have been with me for awhile and you’ve never steered me wrong, so I would greatly appreciate your ideas on this subject.  There are three options:

No tagline, just the header (like it’s been up until now).

“Heaven doesn’t want me.  Hell’s afraid I’ll take over.”

“Exercise.  Eat right.  Die anyway.”

These aren’t terribly Zen, I know, but they’re representative of where my head is right now.  You all know me just about as well as anybody, so…what do you think?

There’s a fourth option, too – if you’re so inclined, suggest a tagline of your own choosing.  I look forward to hearing from you, and I’ll post an update with the results.  Thanks, everybody!

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Hillbilly Zen – “Introduce Yourself” – Blogging 101

Today’s assignment: write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post.

I was so excited to start the Blogging 101 course, eagerly anticipating the first assignment.  So….why did I get a cold knot in my stomach when I saw what it was?  Because I have to write about myself.  Just me, not my farm or the critters or a friend or music or whatever.  I’m in all those posts in one way or another, but in a supporting role, not the lead one.  Writing exclusively about myself produces major heebie-jeebies and makes me wish I hadn’t quit smoking weed.  On the “About” page, I mention how much I love writing even though it sometimes ties me in knots.  Types of trees are mentioned, but nothing really about myself.  This has turned out to be a good thing, since this past year has involved some honkin’ big changes in my life.

So…who am I?  A cross between Dorothy Parker and Granny Clampett.  A well educated hillbilly, in other words.  Not quite as cynical Ms. Parker, but every bit as feisty as Ms.Clampett.  One of my favorite cousins sent me a tee shirt for Christmas that declares “All I care about is my farm and my animals.  Oh…and like maybe 3 people.”  That pretty much says it all.

I’m here because blogging gives me that bizarre combination of pleasure and terror that I mentioned before.  I have chosen to live alone in the middle of nowhere, so there’s definitely a social component.  It’s a way to connect with some truly brilliant, funny, quirky people who inspire me.  That’s the crux of why I blog – while certainly not one of the truly brilliant, I’m occasionally funny and definitely quirky.  I hope that someone somewhere will be inspired by one of my posts; whether it’s to snort and roll their eyes, or burst into laughter, or just consider what they’ve read and gain a bit of a new perspective.

Due to those aforementioned changes, I have the blessing/curse of more time to spend writing.  Now it’s up to me to get off my happy ass and maintain the motivation….

 

Google Images

Google Images

Google Images

Google Images

 

 

 

Hillbilly Zen – Circus

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ready, Set, Done!.”

As it’s been a while since our last free-write… set a timer for ten minutes. Write without pause (and no edits!) until you’re out of time. Then, publish what you have (it’s your call whether or not to give the post a once-over).
 

It begins much too early in the morning, with hot breath on my face, wet noses giving me not-so-gentle nudges, and three sets of unblinking eyes boring into the bleary depths of mine.  I pull the covers over my head in a futile attempt to ignore the inevitable, heave a sigh, then begin the slow rise from a warm bed.

Tails begin wagging frantically, and trembling masses of heretofore restrained exuberance go from zero to full tilt boogie in a nanosecond.  The circus has begun.  Small, medium and large dogs bounce as if they have springs on their feet, and the two feline inhabitants of the house run for cover.

If I’m very lucky and very quick, there is time to get coffee started before the stars of the circus are buckled into their harnesses, which is only slightly easier than gift-wrapping Jello. The ringmistress is then dragged outside, unbuttoned coat flapping, unbrushed hair swirling and shoes only halfway on.  Suddenly the urgency disappears, and every…single…blade of grass must be properly sniffed before canine bodily functions are completed.

At last the troupe tumbles back into a house that smells of hazelnut coffee, and the stars, seasoned performers that they are, know not to get between Mama and her coffee. Now begins the second act, in which various and sundry performers must be persuaded the let their human squeeze into a corner of the couch.   Having depleted their adrenaline rush for now (after stern reminders that the kitten is NOT a squeak toy), the circus arranges itself into a drooling, snoring, farting finale.

Curtain.

Hillbilly Zen – An Old Man’s Dream

She waits for him in a copse of trees just beyond the creek, amid shadows of cedars that rise from the decaying tangle of their fallen kin.  Sleek and petite, she moves with a lithe certainty that scarcely disturbs the fragile tendrils of new growth struggling from the forest floor.  She is built for speed but has reached the limit of her endurance, and seeks cover in the dusky coolness of the woods.  She is vulnerable here, but the miles she has covered today have taken their toll; she sinks to the loam with a soft exhale of relief and is still.  A tiny pulse beats a frantic rhythm in the white curve of her throat, belying the ease of her repose.  The tender pink shell of her ear catches a sound in the distance and she stiffens, instantly alert.  An eternity of heartbeats passes as she waits; is he here?  She raises her head to the wind but it carries no scent of him.  Tension drains from her stance and she moves toward the enticing whisper of the creek.  As she drops her head to drink, her own reflection gives her pause.  In the bottomless caramel depths of her eyes swirls the instinctive wisdom of her lineage, flickering with the deep sadness and unremitting terror of the hunted.  Even if she manages to elude him this time, he will never abandon his desire to possess her. He sees subtle movement at the tree line, and it takes every ounce of willpower he possesses not to bolt from concealment.  To reveal himself now would be foolhardy.  She is fast and can easily outrun him, but he has been tracking her for hours and she is tired.  Tall grass and a favorable wind direction should get him close enough to take her.   His lips curl back over gleaming teeth into a ferocious smile, and a soft, satisfied growl escapes.  This time he will have her.  Adrenaline floods his veins like molten madness, consigning domesticated niceties into fiery oblivion.  The primal drumming of his heart pounds in his ears, but he imagines he hears her muted footfalls through the undergrowth.  He watches her through slitted, cunning eyes as she slips from the shelter of the trees.  He readies himself, muscles contracting, forged by bloodlust into rigid bands beneath his skin.  He snarls, leaps and begins to run.  As he closes in, the tantalizing scent of her panic urges him to greater speed.  She is almost his….

I look up from my laptop and watch the old man twitch in his sleep, smiling at the staccato chuffs, rumbles and snores as he dreams.  We’ve been together almost fourteen years now, and even fourteen more still wouldn’t be long enough.  I’ve seen him go from vibrant youth to frail geriatric.  He’s lost most of his teeth, his fur is patchy, his skin is fragile and he’s gotten more than a little cranky, but I love him with all my heart.  The phone rings twice before I can grab it, and he raises his head from his pillow in obvious annoyance.  Grumbling under his breath, he heaves a sigh and sinks back into his bed.  I finish the call, then reach down and gently skritch his chin.  He opens one eye in tacit acknowledgement of my affection, then drifts off to sleep again.

Don't worry, old man.  You'll get her next time.

Don’t worry, old man. You’ll get her next time.
(Google Image Photo)

Hillbilly Zen – Tornadoes, Snow Storms and Ducks on Ice

(Author’s note:  Yesterday there were tornadoes in Kentucky, today we’ve got snow and ice.  Like everyone else, I’m starting to feel the strain of constantly being chilled to the bone and interminable shades of gray. So, I decided to take my own advice and count my blessings.  I wrote this column for the local paper back in 2008.  Hope you enjoy it.)

Tornadoes, Snow Storms and Ducks on Ice

Every now and then, our world turns upside down.  We are yanked out of our personal comfort zone and forced into an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with our own mortality.  We all, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, walk a fine line – the razor’s edge of existence – with every single breath we take.  Perhaps it is some primal survival instinct that keeps us from dwelling on this, some intrinsic coping mechanism that urges us to quickly process traumatic events and then resume our everyday routine as soon as possible.  We spare little, if any, time to ponder the tenuous nature of our time on this earth.  But…every now and then…our Creator reaches down, bips us upside the head and commands our attention.

We all accept that Kentucky weather is predictable in its unpredictability.  When 700 temperatures plummet to 300 within a day’s time we just shake our head, roll our eyes and wonder why we even bothered to put the long underwear back in the dresser drawer.  But to see the wreckage from one week’s tornadoes covered by inch-thick ice the next week must surely give pause to even the most stoic among us.  This is not just “Kentucky weather”.  This is a stark reminder of how capricious the Fates can be, how what we often take for granted can be taken from us in the blink of an eye.

Photo by NOAA

Tornado Damage in Town

It gets a little festive on my beloved hill the Tuesday night the tornadoes hit.  For the last few weeks, we have been in some sort of weird pattern in which every Tuesday brings severe weather.  Although the previous Tuesday’s winds seem to have howled a bit louder, it becomes evident that this Tuesday’s storm means business. Brief, fervent pleas tumble from my lips each time the house shakes, and even the cats deign to join the dogs and me as we huddle in the bathroom.  When it is all over, a few tree limbs are the only damage on my farm.  The house withstands the onslaught, the barn and the horses are fine, so I offer a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving and go to bed.  After seeing the enormous property damage done throughout the county, it really hits me that it’s only by the good Lord’s grace that no one was killed.  More prayer then, and grateful wonder at the mercy shown to all.

That’s what it comes down to really, doesn’t it?  It’s all about finding those grateful moments.  In the dark times a little extra effort might be required, but if you keep at it, focus on finding even one thing to be thankful for, gratitude gets a little easier each day.  The coolest part is, even the smallest benevolence can produce sizeable joy; ducks on ice, for instance.

On the first gray, dreary morning after the ice storm I dread going out, but my critters are first priority so I bundle up and gingerly make my way out onto the porch.  The ducks immediately start clamoring to be let out of their pen, and ice stormthus begins one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life. The minute I open the gate, they stampede out like they usually do.  Instead of slapping across grass, however, their little webbed feet hit a solid sheet of ice.  This is closely followed by their little feathered bottoms hitting the ice.  I can almost hear “The Blue Danube Waltz” playing in the background; Da da da da dum (Splat! Quack! Splat! Quack!), da da da da dum (Splat! Quack! Splat! Quack!).  Gospel truth, I laugh until I literally have tears in my eyes.  The ducks seem to take offense at my helpless laughter, glaring at me as if their lack of traction is my fault.

After that the day seems a little brighter and a bit warmer.  My burdens, whether real or imagined, feel much lighter.  Each remembrance of that moment will bring laughter and thanks to God for a hilarious mercy shown on a dismal winter morning.

It’s ok to feel sorry for yourself sometimes.  Go ahead and have a pity party, but make it a short one.  Then find something, even the tiniest little thing, that makes you smile.  Blessings aren’t that hard to find, and even a little bit of gratitude goes a long way.

Photo by Marin Winters/Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Marin Winters/Wikimedia Commons

Good Things Come In Threes – The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

In acceptance posts for previous award nominations, I’ve listed the reasons why I think these awards are good things for individual bloggers and the community in general.  This particular award blew my mind a little, though, because I was nominated for it almost simultaneously by three of my favorite bloggers.

Britt, at http://fairytaleepidemic.wordpress.com/, is smart, funny and unbelievably talented; a truly lovely young woman both inside and out.   Her poetry is some of the most honest it’s ever been my privilege to read, and she posts music videos that keep me from becoming a total Classic Rock dinosaur.  She’s “Chicklet” to my “Mama Hen”, and that’s a good thing, Martha.

Matthew, at http://matthewkirshenblatt.wordpress.com/ , is one of the sharpest young minds around, yet writes with the wisdom of an old soul.  His posts are often funny and always thought-provoking, and he’s just an all around good guy.  That he considers my blog award-worthy is an honor that I don’t take lightly.

My hillbilly buddy lovinchelle, at http://lovinchelle.wordpress.com/….well, what can I say.  If you’re really lucky or really blessed, depending on your theological view, you have a friend like him.  He’s a no drama, down to earth kind of guy with incredible talent.  He’s got a way of cutting through all the distracting nonsense and seeing the beauty of simplicity.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I think the world of all three of you, and I am truly grateful for your consideration.

Here’s how this works:

1) Display the award on your blog

2) Link back to the person who nominated you

3) State 7 things about yourself

4) Nominate 15 bloggers for this award

5) Notify those bloggers of the nomination by linking to one of their specific post so that they get notified by pingback

As you can see, I slacked off on nominating 15 people.  It’s not that I don’t think the other bloggers I follow are inspiring, it’s just that I’ve nominated them for awards before, they were all good sports about it, and I don’t want to piss them off!  I still think these awards are a great way to discover new blogs, but although the procedures are fairly simple they can be time-consuming.  Whether they choose to participate or not, I urge you to click the links below; these are some excellent posts from excellent writers and photographers.

http://meandtheboss2013.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/wings/

http://senzingzen.com/2013/03/10/poem-memories/

http://1pointperspective.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/life-lessons-from-gilligans-island/

http://likeitiz.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/phoneography-challenge-my-neighborhood/

http://russelrayphotos2.com/2013/03/14/architecture-designs-and-landscaping-by-mother-and-father-nature/

Ok, so here’s the part that always hangs me up – writing about myself.  Ask me to list seven things about my critters and it’s a snap.  Writing seven things about myself makes my brain itch.  But here we go:

I play the lottery pay into my retirement plan once a week.

I’m seriously considering going back to school so I can find a job that will finance  my farming habit.

My new favorite author is Nevada Barr.

I know I’m a child of the Universe and have a right to be here, but I have a real problem with accepting what I cannot change.  If I can’t change it, I aggravate the tar out of someone who can.

My favorite bumper sticker is “Hey, where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?”

When I was 17, I got busted for climbing a water tower.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat – the view was amazing.

I cook with wine a lot.  Sometimes I even put it in the food.

Whew!  Thanks again to Britt, Matthew, lovinchelle and all the other bloggers who inspire me.

 

 

 

 

 

Hillbilly Zen – Hazelnut Coffee and Pancakes on a Stick

I’ve had what I thought was difficulty writing before: no inspiration/motivation, trying to find  just the right phrasing, sweating a deadline, etc.  That all pales in comparison with this last week.  What began as a simple writing exercise morphed into a maelstrom the likes of which I’ve never experienced.

Surgeons are discouraged from operating on family members, detectives aren’t assigned to cases involving relatives or friends, judges and juries are dismissed from deciding the fate of anyone with whom they’ve had prior contact.  So why is it that writers are driven to fill pages with visceral thoughts and feelings?

I’ll ponder that later.  Right now I’m going to seek out the most mindless recreation available, while drinking hazelnut coffee and scarfing down a couple of pancakes on a stick.  The reason for these neuron-numbing, pound-producing indulgences?  The “Haiku for Two Trees” series is finished.

The story it tells may be impossible for anyone but me to follow, but I hope readers will find some beauty in the words.  The memories and emotions that swarmed from this Pandora’s Box have been duly noted and properly dealt with, for now anyway.  I know they will always haunt me, but they are less strident, less accusatory.  Grief has been softened by retrospection.  A fringe benefit of that inexplicable writer’s drive, I suppose.

As stated before, this series was inspired by a photo posted by lovinchelle.  I admit that during this last week I vacillated between wanting to thank him and wanting to throttle him for starting all this.  Now that it’s in the rear view mirror I can sincerely say it’s the former.

If you’d like to see the series presented in one chronological post, it’s here.  I’m still debating whether to use the subtitles or go with I, II, III, etc., and would greatly appreciate feedback.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all who have visited and shown their encouragement.

Online Bingo, here I come.

Hillbilly Zen – Eating My Words (Haiku on the Side)

My friend lovinchelle posted a photo that has just grabbed me and won’t let go. Since I’ve been trying to use words more sparingly in my efforts at poetry, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to attempt Haiku.  Just one Haiku.  Seventeen syllables.  That was the plan.

I visited bussokuseki yesterday, and Gassho has written another of his beautiful Haikus, which seemed to affirm my decision to write one myself.  To my surprise, he also lamented notebook pages covered with ideas that would not manifest themselves in cohesive writing.  I searched for words to encourage him, but all I could think of was “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” Needless to say I left without commenting.  The inability to think of anything remotely intelligent to say should have been my cue to close the lid on my laptop, but sadly I did not.corn dogs

The photo embraced me like a pixellated python, my muse was on me like white on rice and I was damn skippy gonna write me a Haiku.  But then I found myself unable to stop. Words tumbled onto the page like Gremlins fed after midnight.  I was up until 3:00 a.m.  I’m too old for this crap.  I finally published what, in the wee hours of the morning, seemed like reasonably decent work.

When I viewed the post this morning, I literally cringed.  I don’t hate everything about it, but it does not do justice to the photo or the vision I was trying to convey.  Thank you to those who “Liked” and commented, but it’s got to come down.  If this were a meal I had spent all day on that turned into such a congealed mess, I’d fling that sucker into the trash and microwave a corn dog. But that picture won’t…let…go.

So despite the heat I’m heading back into the kitchen.  Instead of cramming it all together, I’m going to prepare it one course at a time.  It should be presented with finesse, not haste.  I adore corn dogs, but guests deserve better.

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