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Can You Guess the Title of This Classic
Children's Book from the Brickified Cover?

A Big Tip o' the Hat goes out to Travis Jonker, Children's Librarian and author of the School Library Journal "100ScopesNotes" Blog. Today, his posting of "Name that LEGO Book Cover" was not only shamelessly copied by me on my occasionally remembered writer's blog but also prompted this, even more rare, LJ entry.

I'll invite you all to play along: go to Brickit and Brickify/LEGOify 5 of your favorite albums from Back in the Day and post them to your LJ (or FB or wherever) and post the URL in the comments here so I can see if I can figure them out.

Here are my five. Leave your guesses in the comments section as well.

Album Cover 1

Album Cover 2

Album Cover 3

Album Cover 4

Album Cover 5

How many did you guess right, eh?

fivecats: (5 Long-Necked Blinking Cats)

Detail from Artwork at the Entrance to Our Local Emergency Room
August 2015

Last Saturday we were part of a nine or ten car accident on the highway.  My guess, from the look of it, was that a driver was texting and looked up to see the cars in front of him had slowed down considerably.  He hit the brakes, weaved to the right, then to the left, then shot out into the middle lane and disappeared -- leaving a chain reaction of cars hitting each other in his wake.
Bonn was driving and working together we managed to not hit the car in front of us (by inches) but we did get hit from behind.  Bonn saw the driver in the rear view mirror and tensed up just before the impact so she was hurt worse than I was.
Despite the fast-lane-on-the-highway speeds, all but one of the cars involved was able to drive away from the scene.  Bonn's 4Runner wasn't damaged at all -- the car behind us hit the tow bar and never made it as far as the body of the car.
After a long afternoon spent on the side of the highway and at our local Emergency Room (Bonn experience numbness down her left arm) we got home and collapsed from it all.
We were certainly lucky.  The accident and our injuries were relatively minor.  It was one of those Blink of an Eye moments that could have changed -- or ended -- our lives for the worse.
An Additional Tip o' the Hat to the cops and the EMS on the scene and the hospital staff.  I know this was a fairly common occurrence for them but they handled the situation and the people professionally and with concern for our well-being.

fivecats: (5 Long-Necked Blinking Cats)

Downtown Raleighwood
August 2015

Self-portrait in a black back panel of a city bus while waiting to head home after another long day.
fivecats: (5 Long-Necked Blinking Cats)

Skyhouse Apartments
Downtown Raleighwood
August 20, 2015

I watched these apartments being built over a period of months. They're across the street from the central bus hub in Downtown Raleighwood.

I'm rather fond of this photograph.

fivecats: (5 Long-Necked Blinking Cats)

I'm guessing I'm around 3 in this picture.

Rory Raccoon and Flower (the Skunk) are watching over my shoulder.

fivecats: (5 Long-Necked Blinking Cats)

1966ish. There was a mail-away contest in the local Sunday comic section. If you colored in the Funny Face ad (a Kool Aid competitor) and sent it in you would be entered in a contest for your very own Funny Face Drink Stand.
In one of those harmonic convergence moments, I knew -- I KNEW -- I was going to win this contest. My mom tried her best to explain how unlikely this might be, but I held firm to my rock-solid belief that I was going to win.
Sure enough, several weeks later, a delivery man knocked at the door and dropped off a long cardboard box filled with even more cardboard.
My bewildered mother agreed to fill a tupperware jug with some sort of drink mix, and a styrofoam urn with ice and I set up shop outside our front door. 2¢ a Dixie Cup, as I recall.
After a few times setting up shop the appeal wore thin and it was relegated to my parent's basement where it met with an unfortunate cardboard fate as a fort, dueling swords and other follies of youth.
(The stand in 1970's faded color -- although I don't remember it being orange striped)


[NOTE: Like many people, I signed up for an Ello account when they first came online.  (Was that a year or so ago?)  It was touted as an ad-free alternative to FaceBook but has largely been forgotten by most of my contacts who also signed on in the early days.

I've been posting there fairly regularly.  Most often just photographs or screen grabs of cartoons that I enjoy.  I've found that the silence there appeals to me.

I have been using IFTTT to automagically copy my Instagram photographs over to both FaceBook and Flickr.  I had hoped someone would come up with a IFTTT 'recipe' to do copy my Ello entries over to LJ.  Alas, that has yet to happen. (and I certainly don't care to learn enough programming to make that happen myself)  I suppose, then, that it's time to finally start doing so manually.]
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First Knitted Scarf, Completed
First Knitted Scarf, Completed
January 2015

Last night I finally completed my first, knitted scarf. It's five feet long (plus an extra 4" on each end for the tassels/fringe that Bonn requested) and seven inches wide.

The left side of the scarf (in the photo above) was the side I started on. You can see that the corner isn't all that even on the left-hand side. Once I learned what I was doing wrong I decided just to make corrections and go on instead of ripping it all out again. (I ended up cutting off about twelve feet of yarn because I'd torn it out so many times the yarn was lifeless.) There are holes from dropped stitches here and there, but I've just described them as places where moths attacked the scarf.

I made this using a garter stitch, knitting on both sides of the scarf. While this was a good, safe idea for a first project, I quickly learned that a scarf done in just a garter stitch is, well, boring.

Next up will be an infinity scarf/cowl that Bonn has requested. It will be done on circular needles and with a pattern.

fivecats: (5 Long-Necked Blinking Cats)

Knitting - First Attempt
January 2015

A Quick Guide for a Knitter's First Project

Use a Thick, Single-Colored Yarn and Big Needles
Thick yarn and large needles will give you a very clear picture of what you're doing. The knit pattern will be distinct and any mistakes will be immediately obvious.

Start With Something Small
Think a potholder. With a simple Knit 2, Purl 2 pattern.
This will will incorporate binding on, knitting and purling, and casting off all in one, short knitting session. You'll have a completed project to show for your efforts at the end as well.

Avoid Overly Fuzzy Yarns
Yes, they look warmer and have more 'personality' but all that excess fuzz is distracting. Save it for a later project.

Trust the Stitch/Row Measurements on the Inside Label.
Even if they don't look right on your same-sized needles, their count for a 4"x4" test swatch is accurate.

I make these claims because of course I did the exact opposite.

Bonn chose a thin, fuzzy yarn and I picked small needles (No. 5) to me to use to make her long scarf. Even after switching over to bigger needles (No. 9 -- not big enough for a first project, imho) the fuzzy yarn is making it hard to see any pattern while I'm knitting. I also cast on way more stitches then necessary after casting on the number the label said would made for 4". Now I'm looking at having to either tear it all out and start over or need about 5x the amount of yarn to make a scarf of any reasonable length.

[EDIT: I've since torn the whole thing apart and am starting over.]
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Photo by Bonn

Yesterday afternoon was a confusion of phone calls. Bonn was flipped out because of the condition of the rescue cats, the former co-werker hadn't told her enough to be helpful, someone else from the rescue groups she's affiliated with was calling Bonn demanding information she didn't have…

And in the midst of it all, five kittens lives were at stake.

Photo by Bonn

Former co-werker's home is at the end of a development out in the country. Cell phone signals are iffy at best out there. Bonn had to drive to the main road to call me to ask me to find the co-werker's phone number somehow. I managed to do so and then acted as the middle man between people who needed information.

I got the name of a vet the kittens could be taken to and conveyed that to Bonn. She drove them out, got the four smallest of them seen while the vet spoke with the woman who is in charge of the rescue group. The vet and that woman decided to put Perch down due to his condition and level of dehydration.

A series of back-and-forth calls later and we're told that if we can drive 90 minutes away we can hand the three kittens to someone who was driving to the DC area with four rescued dogs that night. Bonn gathered up the kittens and their meds, then picked me up at werk and off we drove.

The Twin Kitties: Minneapolis and St. Paula
Photo by Bonn

We arrived early enough to get some food for the kittens and give them a chance to eat and stretch their legs a bit before the long ride north. The Twin Kitties each started climbing all over me, wanting to go exploring. Graybar was far more subdued, wanting just to be held and warmed up.

After 45 minutes or so, the woman pulled up, swooped up the kittens in their carriers, and drove off.

That should be the end of the story. I should be able to just say, "We did our best" and be comforted in knowing that we saved three of the four Bonn took with her to get help.

Instead, all I can think about is how we lost Perch.

It just makes me incredibly angry. Yes he was a sick boy, but he was fighting, dammit. He just wanted to be held by Bonn so he could get warm and rest safely enough to heal. If we had the money we would have paid for his care ourselves -- but we've been caught in this recession-battered cycle for so long I don't know how we'll ever work our way out of it.

And because of that Perch is gone.

I'm really getting tired of life not being fair and the least amongst us taking the greatest beating.

fivecats: (5 Long-Necked Blinking Cats)
Jacques Cool
Jacques Cool
Outside Raleighwood 2014

When Bonn wanted to start spending time around horses again I asked an old werk colleague who was into horses if she had any suggestions. Turns out she has two of her own and could use some help with general grooming and maintenance. Bonn met her, met the horses, the ducks, the chickens, the dogs, the cats... and started going out there once a week to help out.

She talked to me about the various yard work and fence repair projects that she saw as needing done out there. Would I come out with her and help out? Nope, I said. This is your volunteer work and I have a book to finish revising.

Last week Bonn got a message from this woman saying she'd been bitten by a flying squirrel and the bite had become infected. She was in the hospital and could Bonn go out more often to check on the animals? When the infection kept getting worse, Bonn decided to start going out on a daily basis.

There is a roommate, but she works and is recovering from a recently broken ankle. Said roommate has a young daughter who knows some things, but isn't the most responsible. At least the roommate has been able to go out and buy additional feed for the horses and get meds set out.

On Wednesday Bonn told me about some rescued animals in the woman's barn out back. There was a hyperactive dog that no one could control. There were five kittens who, from what she could hear, all had bronchial infections and were having trouble breathing. My initial response was a partial shut-down and a desperate, "Don't get involved. We can't save them all."

Bonn came back on Thursday saying she went into the horse stall where the kittens were and took two of them out of their cages and just held on to them. They craved human interaction and warmth, she said. It was as if that simple act had reminded them that life was worth fighting for.

Now, I'm a sucker for animals. Cats especially. Kittens especially especially. Still, I did not want to get involved. We're way too short on money this month to take any cat to the vet, much less five cats -- and then our five cats as well who would, undoubtedly, become infected.

Going to see them wasn't an option, as far as I was concerned. It would just hurt too much to see these little lives I can't save.

Then Friday night Bonn came back after spending 6+ hours out there. She went to bed not feeling well and woke up only slightly better. I set all of my revision work out the kitchen table and started getting ready for a day's worth of work. Bonn, however, insisted she was going back out the tend to the animals again.

We discussed this for a while. And by "discussed" I mean, I tried to reason with her that she shouldn't compromise her health any further and her telling me she was going.

I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth. And said, "If I go out with you will it mean you finish and leave faster than if I don't?"

She said, "Yes."

So I spent my weekend walking an otherwise unmanageable dog and spending several hours with very sick kittens.

Then going home emotionally drained.

Each one of them had individual time with me. The dog got a 30+ minute walk through the neighborhood and the kittens each had time in my lap, in my arms, and getting their bellies and ears rubbed. They had gunk wiped away from their eyes and noses. They were fed and given some meds. They each got temporary names, too. (Perch, Graybar, Boston, Minneapolis, St. Paul)

Someone from the rescue group this woman is associated with is supposed to come and get them on Tuesday and take them somewhere in Virginia where they'll be put in a proper shelter and given medical attention. I truly hope that's what happens. And that they all find good homes.

I did all I could do. I gave them time and love and warmth and attention and energy.

It just doesn't feel like it's enough.


[EDIT: Bonn just called in tears. Perch has died & Graybar is going down fast. I've been back and forth on the phone with her and the still-in-the-hospital former co-werker. Bonn's taking Graybar to the vet to be treated. Hopefully she'll make it there in time.]

[EDIT: Bonn just called from the vet. Perch is alive, but barely. She's taken all of the other cats except Boston (who is older and doing better than the smaller ones) to a local vet where they are being treated.]
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A Very Young Maxx

Yesterday I woke up in what felt like the middle of the night. I listened for a moment, fearing the insistent, clamoring sound of the alarm would go off. Instead, there was nothing but silence.

With a smile, I pulled the blankets closer around me and let out a contented sigh.

And that's when the %@$*& alarm went off.


Last night I woke up in what felt like the middle of the night. Again, I listened to the silence. As I curled back into the covers, one of our cats came up for some late hours love-on time. I rubbed Maxx's head and ears. He laid down alongside me. After some good belly rub time, he stretched his arm over mine and went to sleep.

I sighed and began to do the same.

And that's when the %@$*& alarm went off.

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Screen Shot from Email
October, 2014

When I was in my late teens I had a degree of memory that impressed even me. I could recall life events down to the month -- and often the week -- that they occurred.

During that time I once asked my father about his childhood. He replied that he didn't remember much about his life until he was older. That seemed odd to me, but I dismissed it as something that came 'with age.'

My own memory has gotten fuzzier and fuzzier over the years. Still, I'm pretty good on major events. Things like having gone on stage with Penn and Teller should be one of those ego-gratifying things I should remember. Quite clearly, in fact.

At least I remember going to (and enjoying) the show. I even remember getting there early and watching the stage hands hoisting a glass jar high into the rafters that was used as the finale of an impressive mind-reading trick.

That whole being on stage part... nope. Not in the slightest.

* sigh *

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Thoughtful Bear

Thoughtful Bear
Tennessee, October 2014

A few weeks ago [ profile] toddpage was kind enough to give me an invite code to Ello. As a blogging platform it's pretty sparse -- there's no easy way to find people you know, there aren't any good editing applications yet... and yet I've found myself posting photographs and a brief line or two to it on a daily basis.

I find all of the social media choices overwhelming. Between Facebook, Twitter, LJ, Blogger, RSS Feeds, Google+, Ello, and all of the others I don't even have accounts for, it seems to me that keeping up to date on all of them would be a part-time job in and of itself. And I have neither the time nor, frankly, the interest in doing so.

LJ has always been my long-form essay place. I would write here to keep my writing chops from getting overly rusty. Over the past few years, however, I've found I have less and less to say. There are days when I think about posting a specific observation (the first day the weather is warm enough to not need a coat in the spring; the first day the fluorescent yellow-green pollen covers the black hood of my car, starting to play the mandolin) but the effort to write a full entry just seems so heavy.

That, and my Nikon D50 finally died. I'm now left with my iPhone for a camera. (When I first started carrying an iPhone I took hundreds and hundreds of photographs with it. I've become frustrated by the iPhone's limitations, however, and haven't been doing much with photography lately, either)

Writing time, now, is supposed to be time spent with The Book. That means more (seemingly endless) revision time -- something I don't have much enthusiasm for these days. (It's getting done, albeit more slowly than I wish)

Posting to Ello makes me feel like I should be doing the same here. I miss the community that was here in the past.

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Last July I wrote about how the last of our original five cats, Maggie, wasn't doing well. What we thought might be her last days instead turned out to be an indication of her inability to tolerate certain foods. Certain of her favorite foods.

She had already shown she couldn't tolerate shrimp any longer, something I still don't think she fully admits to. (Or maybe she just wants us to feel guilt any time we eat shrimp around her.) Back in July the problem turned out to be her favorite part of her morning rituals: cream. Bonn would make tea in the morning and give Maggie a small saucer of cream. They had done this for years without any problem. Now cream makes her miserable for 3-5 days straight. She won't eat or drink anything -- something that can be deadly for a cat.

We have her off all dairy now, meaning no cheese, no butter, no whipped cream. She still cries out for her cream in the morning (and by "cries out" I mean "demands in a highly annoyed voice") and we have to keep an eye on any plate that has had butter on it.

This past Sunday was Easter, which means it was also her birthday. She enjoyed a baked chicken in her honor, although she did point out that it wasn't grilled, which is her favorite.

I will be very happy if she outlives us all.

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Crow Doorway

Downtown Raleighwood

February 2014

I've been choosing a Word for the Year since 2006.  It's an alternative to making New Years Resolutions, something which I never found to be very effective.  I got the idea from Christine Kane, a former singer-songwriter turned Life\Entrepreneur Coach and have liked how the process of choosing a word makes me reassess where I am in life and where I want to be.

Last year I chose the word LIGHT.  The idea was to find a word that balanced giving positive energy while still being true to my somewhat cynical side.  It was a lofty, esoteric word that was well-meaning but lacking in any direct Call to Action.

This year I've chosen the word WRITE.  It comes with the clear intention of changing my lack-of-writing ways, to stop feeling sorry for myself and my never-good-enough book, and to just get the work done.

In December I set a series of goals for myself:  (a) have the latest revision completed by Feb 1st and (b) sent out to my Trusted Beta Readers so comments could be back to me by mid-February.  (c)Further revisions to be completed and the polished manuscript sent back to my agent by the first week of March.

The first part of that meant both revisions and new writing.  (Three new chapters, as it turned out)  I took time off from werk to complete the manuscript and finished work on it before the end of January.

WRITE.  That's my word for the year.  What's yours?
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Self Portrait in Maggie's Eye

Over Easter weekend, 1997, the cat Bonn had brought home from where it had been abandoned weeks before, gave birth to five black cats. Those five cats became one of the focal points of our lives. They were our family, our feline children, our constant companions and the source of much joy, laughter, and love.

Maggie was the firstborn. Her statement, "I was here first; everything's mine" was taken as a simple truth by all of her siblings. She wasn't the Alpha of the pride, she was The Big Sister. If anyone was not feeling well -- feline or human -- she became Nursemaid Maggie and stayed with them until they were better.

For more, click on through to the other side… )

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Ceiling Fan
Outside Raleighwood
June 2013

Recording for posterity:

I play Pente with [ profile] amlaped and [ profile] sakkijarvi over at (If you play Pente and are interested in playing, leave me a comment))

There is an area to the left of the board that allows us to leave comments to each other. Sometimes we talk about the game, sometimes we talk about whatever is on our minds. It's a great way to keep up with one another on an almost daily basis.

For Father's Day, [ profile] sakkijarvi's older sister posted a photo of herself as a baby with her parents. I was struck by how much [ profile] sakkijarvi looks like his father in the photo -- something I had never noticed before.

Here's our conversation from the Pente comments, (without the comments about the game):

[ profile] sakkijarvi: The odd thing is that, when you compare us at similar ages, I didn't look much like him until my mid-20s or so . . . as a young man he was handsome, whereas I was, at best, plain . . . in some ways I think I've actually become better looking with age

Me: I think I peaked in my early 20s. It's been quite downhill from there.

[ profile] sakkijarvi: Maybe it's just that that wise-ass smirk of yours plays better coming from a pup!

I'm going to say that's partially the benefit and the problem of long-time friends.

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Self Portrait in Kings Entryway Ceiling
Downtown Raleighwood
May 2013

Three Bits o' Gratitude

1. Taking the Time to Take it Easy; Taking the Time to Take it Slow
Between being tired, feeling run down, and frustrated with werk, earlier this week I decided to take this coming Monday off. After yesterday, I decided to take Tuesday off as well. (Unfortunately I've scheduled a meeting for early Wednesday morning, so I can't keep extending the number of days off)

2. Ground Rules Laid
Last night during a long walk through the neighborhood park Bonn and I were discussing some of the as-yet-to-be-planted plants we have on the side porch. "That's something you could do on your days off!" she suggested. "Don't start trying to set me things to do!" I interjected.

While I probably will get the cherry tomatoes and the tiny blueberry bush into pots or buckets, I don't want anything on my schedule for two days. And Bonn's even agreed to it. : )

3. First Author Interview Agreed To
I had a visit from my favorite kid of someone at werk. He's nine years old and wanted to know about my book. After telling him a bit about it his mother asked me if he could come back sometime soon and interview me for his fourth grade class newspaper.
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Sunday Afternoon at Joe Montague's Farm: Barn Front Porch
May 2013

Three Bits o' Gratitude

1. This weekend was the first Grower's Market in Fuquay-Varina, and Bonn's first show selling her soap. The weeks leading up to this show were stressful for her, so it was good to get the first show done and over with. Considering all, she did pretty well. Her soaps got a very good reaction from the strawberry and greens buying crowd and she sold a respectable number of them as well.

2. Apparently there has been a Farmer's Market in this location for a number of years. Many of the sellers are Good Ol' Boy North Carolina farmers who grew up farming the land and have kept right on doing it well into their sixties and seventies. The Market had a strong community vibe -- the majority of the sellers all knew each other and greeted one another with handshakes and hugs.

What struck me the most about this was that the greetings were all very genuine -- race, ethnicity, spoken accents making no difference at all. It's things like this that give me hope for our species.

3. One of the many things the manager of the Market forgot to mention to Bonn was that, as a member of the Market, she was supposed to show up at the home of one of the farmer's on Sunday to have her picture taken for publicity purposes. Before we left the Market, we met the farmer whose home we were supposed to go to. He was an older gentleman, with a white beard, well-worn overalls, and a black felt hat with a John Deere tractor pin on the front.

When Bonn learned his name was Joe Montague she told him that she had Montagues in her family tree. He turned a mean gaze to me as if to say, "You mean you're claiming kinship to me?"

"She's done her research!" I quickly responded.

To be safe, though, I had Bonn print out some of her research that linked her to the Montagues. (13th Great-grandfather)

Turns out the glaring gaze was all an act. Mr. Montague turned out to be the most gracious and amusing of hosts. He gave us a quick tour of the downstairs of their house -- a house built in the mid-1800s and to which he has added several additional rooms (like a living room with a 25' cathedral ceiling and an octagon-shaped kitchen) all constructed with wood originally hewn in the same time period, gathered from old tobacco barns and local buildings. Oh, and most of the windows came from old churches, just for a bit of artistic color.

The front porch of the barn at the head of his driveway looks like it should be an antique shop. Old license plates, a doctor's horse-drawn carriage, an old washing machine, old signs, tools, and rocking chairs.

I spent most of my time there with my mouth gaping open from saying, "WOW!" so often.

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Bedtime Maxx & Me
Bedtime Maxx & Me
April 2013

I love this picture of Maxx. During the daylight hours he's a very aloof cat who is frustrated by not being able to go outside (where he would, undoubtedly put his extensive leaping skills to work by escaping from the fenced-in back yard… which is why he isn't allowed outside). Once it's bedtime, though, he frequently wants to curl up against me and sleep.

Three Bits o' Gratitude for Today: Online Radio Edition

1. The Iain Anderson Show
Iain Anderson's show is broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland late in the evening (Scottish time) but is available online and through the BBC iPlayer. He plays a good mix of folk, older rock, and various acoustic singer/songwriters. He's only on Monday through Wednesday, so I download the show the next day and listen to it the next day.

2. Late Night with Cherrie McIlwaine
Cherrie McIlwaine's show is on BBC Radio Ulster (Northern Ireland) and overlaps Iain Anderson's show, timewise. Luckily, I download her show as well. She plays a similar mix of music, frequently on the quieter side, but every bit as good.

3. Wrecking Ball Radio
Wrecking Ball Radio originates just down the road from where I werk in Carrboro, NC. They promote themselves as playing "eclectic folk rock" "cosmic americana" "bluegrass + jamband" and "soulful" which pretty well sums it up. Their daytime playlists have been good this week, so I'll keep tuning in.



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