Arwen Continues to Amuse Me

My cat Arwen continues to provide amusement. A month or so ago I was sitting at my desk when I noticed her rolling on the floor in the corner. That was strange, and so I asked, “Buddy, what are you doing?!” I then remembered that her catnip ball was in that corner. I thought the ball would be a good toy because she enjoys a catnip-scented mouse. It did not go as I had hoped. She mostly ignored the ball when I first gave it to her, and so I thought I had wasted my money on it. A few weeks later she suddenly became interested. She does not play with it often, but she occasionally enjoys it.

The best toy for her is a scented toy mouse. I have a small ziplock bag of catnip. I put a cheap toy mouse in it for at least a few hours, maybe days, and then I give it to her. She goes crazy. See the results for yourself.

 

A few months ago I found a treat she enjoys. She did not care about the brand of treats I gave to Oscar, and so for quite some time I did not give her treats. A few months ago I decided to try Temptations. Wow. She loves them. I do not even know which flavor is her favorite because she loves every one she has tried, but I like to give her the catnip flavor.

I like to spoil her, and so I enjoy watching her reaction to these treats. Whenever she first comes inside, she often jumps onto the kitchen table where I keep them. If she is already inside, she also might jump up when she sees me walk into the kitchen. I know what she wants. If I then pick up the bag, she sometimes rubs it in anticipation.

As much as I enjoy spoiling her, however, I need to keep some discipline. She can act like a child who only wants to eat desert, but she needs to eat food too. If she has had enough treats for that day, then I will tell her to eat her food or go outside and catch something.

These treats are also useful if I want to know where she is. When I leave for work I put her outside. She loves to roam and would hate to be trapped inside alone all day. If I want to make sure she did not slip back inside while I was preparing to leave, then I shake her treats. If she hears it, she will come running. I cannot disappoint her after doing that, but I do not mind giving her some in those situations. I like seeing her happy.

 

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More Movie Reviews Are Coming

I hope to do another religious/philosophical themes movie review sometime in the next month or so. I have several movies in mind. Here are some that I am considering. I have not decided which one I will review next, but I am interested in which ones most interest my readers. Feel free to make a request in the comments.

Raiders of the Lost ark (1981)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Indian Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Schindler’s List (1993)
Contact (1997)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Signs (2002)
Minority Report (2002)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
Knowing (2009)
Avatar (2009)

All of these are movies in my personal collection. No doubt there are some others that I have not seen. Feel free to suggest other options.

For now I need to stop posting every Tuesday. Posting twice each week leaves me little time to read about the craft of writing. I want to increase my quality on this blog, and I also want to break past that inner block and learn to write decent short stories. I may still occasionally publish an additional post when time allows, but I will not make it a weekly event.

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Love Your Furry Friends

Last Sunday I watched A Street Cat Named Bob on Netflix after stumbling across a YouTube clip reporting on this story. The movie is based on the true story of a street musician in London named James Bowen who is struggling to overcome heroin addiction. He adopts a stray, orange, male cat whom he names Bob. The cat becomes a part of his act, attracting attention from the people. Caring for Bob also helps James to overcome his addiction and turn his life around.

I watched most of the movie at my desk. During the last twenty minutes or so I lied down on the couch. I covered myself with a blanket and invited Arwen to join me. She loves blankets. She settled into one of her favorite spots – the space between my legs and the back of the couch (which my sister once called “the basket”). She purred and turned her head upside down. This is her way of saying, “Please rub my chin,” which I did. She then enjoyed time with me as I finished the movie.

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I thought about how pets can enrich our lives. Like Bob, Arwen was a stray. She was living on the streets and trying to care for two kittens until my brother-in-law’s aunt and uncle fostered her and provided homes for her kittens. I later adopted Arwen after Oscar died. She is happy living here, and I am happy to have her. When I come home from work, she is usually at or near the door waiting for me. Of course, she is eager to eat her dinner, but she is also happy to see me.

After I finished the movie I picked her up from the couch, held her, and scratched her head. She squinted her eyes and purred loudly, showing her appreciation. I thought about the closing line from Marley and Me: “Give him your heart, and he will give you his.” Oscar was one of my best friends. Losing him was hard, but since then Arwen has become a great friend. I talk to her as I get ready for work, and she greets me when I come home. Sometimes she will curl up on her carpeted cat platform next to my desk while I a working or curl up and purr on my lap when I sitting on my recliner. If you have a dog or cat, then take good care of him or her. Your furry friend can become a great companion. Give your love, and you will get it back.

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Struggles with Writing Fiction

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People who follow this blog will know that I got back into writing last year, but that was not my first return to writing. I made periodic attempts a year or two before that, but most of them were not on this blog. Some of them were more theological, and I may still continue that from time to time.

I also tried some short story ideas. While at work I would ponder ideas, and I had several. But there was the problem. They were only ideas. I never could go far with them. I could think of an idea, but writing scenes, dialogue, and characters that were not one-dimensional, forced, and artificial was a serious struggle. I could think of the idea, but I could not fill in the gaps.

One time I did submit a story to a short story contest. I doubted I had much of a chance, but I decided that I needed to try. It was rejected. I then tweaked it and submitted it to a magazine. It was rejected. That was okay. It was a bit unsettling, but I knew it was only my first attempt. I continued trying other ideas, but they came out flat, if they came out at all.

I have on my desk the black 5″ x 7″ 80-sheet notebook I would carry in my pocket. It is almost full of snippets and ideas – ideas that remain only that – ideas. Sometimes I have concluded that I simply am not cut out to write fiction. If that is true, then what do I say about the notebook of ideas? Should they remain there? That does not seem right.

Sometimes I see a catchy quote online, attributed to Victor Hugo: “A writer is a world trapped in a person.” Sometimes I feel like that. I have two ideas that are bigger than the one I submitted to the contest. One deals with an important ethical issue of our day, and the other has the feel of an episode of the Twilight Zone. Both could be intriguing stories, if I could only get them out of my thick head.

I do not want all of those ideas to remain in my notebook never to be seen again, and so I made publishing a short story an item on my Bucket List. I do not know how I will do it, but it is a goal.

I welcome advice from anyone who has had a similar struggle. Also, if you know the source and context of the Hugo quote (and can confirm that it was written by Hugo), then please leave a comment. I would love to read it in context.

 

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Brainstorming on a Pallet

At work on Monday last week I thought about some writing ideas while stocking items in the warehouse. To make sure I did not forget them, I wrote some brief notes on a piece of cardboard. When the bell sounded for our afternoon break, I told myself that I would not pull out my cell phone. Often I can look in any direction and see people looking at Facebook on their cell phones, and so I try to avoid using mine except when necessary. That time I did not even pull it out of my pocket.

During the break I sat on a stack of shipping pallets held by a stock picker (a kind of forklift) while I wrote my ideas in my red notebook and developed them a little further. It is not the kind of place one envisions as an ideal place to write. I was not sitting in an old fashioned study with a wood fire in a fireplace and a cup of coffee on a lamp table. I was not sitting on the front porch of a mountain cottage with breeze blowing, mist hanging over the mountain tops, and birds chirping in the distance (like I can do when I am on vacation in Fontana Village). No, I was sitting on a stack of pallets in a warehouse with notes written on a spare piece of cardboard and re-organizing them in my notebook. It was not an exciting spot for writing, but sometimes you need to take what you can get. It worked for me, and it was better than wasting my time with my cell phone.

While I was writing, a man in my department approached and asked if I was writing poetry. I told him I was writing personal thoughts. He asked if I had done that all my life. I said “No,” and then I added, “It is better than simply looking at Facebook.” One reason I minimize using my cell phone is to be an example of doing something different and productive.

Sometimes it is discouraging to think I have a Ph.D., but I work in a warehouse. It is not a bad job, but I do want to use my education. In the meantime, however, I can make good use of the spare time that I have and do something productive that exercises my mind and develops my ability as a writer. Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to write about each travel destination on my bucket list. For now, I will work on simply writing and becoming as good as I can.

 

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Bucket List

Do you have a list of dreams, goals for life? They could be career goals, persona goals, or fun things you dream of doing. What do you want to do before you die? Here is my list, so far.

  • Get a job that uses my education. I want to do something with it.

Travel (If I ever have the money. More details on these here.)

  • Iona, for a few weeks
    • I do not know why, but this idea is stuck in my head. I am even reading a book about it that I inherited from my mother’s collection.
    • I might include the surrounding islands
    • I would also try to visit Dublin, Ireland to see the Book of Kells which was probably written on Iona
  • London
  • Israel, Jerusalem – For the biblical history
  • Italy & Greece – To see sites of ancient history and mythology
  • Antarctica – How many people get to tell stories about visiting there?

Writing

  • Publish a book
  • Publish a short story (more on this in a future post)

Brief note:
I likely will not publish a post on Tuesday next week. I need to focus on some important personal reading. If you use Goodreads, however, then feel free to send me a friend request. We can discuss what each of us is reading.

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People Need to Learn to Read

Reviewing favorite books from my childhood brings back an important aspect of my childhood for which I am thankful. I was raised to be a reader. When I was a child, my mother did not let my sisters and me be mental vegetables during summer vacations. She required us to read some every day. Reading became a normal part of my life. In elementary school I loved receiving a Troll Books Club catalog and choosing books to order. My parents always paid for my order, and the day I received my order was always exciting.

When I was in eighth grade my English teacher required us to form groups in which each person would review a book he or she had read (I reviewed H. G. Wells’ “The Time Machine”). One of the boys in my group had not read anything since the previous year, and he read it only because he was required to read it in class. Reading was so much a part of my life that I did not understand such a mindset. He was so inactive that my group had to move forward and complete our project without him (he probably received a zero grade). Fortunately my other group member was also an avid reader. Later when I was in tenth grade my grades were suffering. I had the ability to do the work, but I lacked discipline. Even then, however, I was a reader. Fortunately that lack of discipline was remedied.

When I was in college and seminary, I would continue reading between semesters. I also continued reading after seminary. My independent reading after graduation was some of the most influential reading in how I view the world. I slacked off a few years ago, but I have now gotten back into the habit.

Today, distractions are everywhere. When I was a child we did not have mobile devices or social media. Personal computers were still in the early stages, and we had no internet. Parents were concerned with how much television children watched (something my parents strictly controlled), but we did not have nearly as many distractions as children have today. I applaud any parent or teacher who encourages children to be readers. It can benefit their mental development in ways that have wide applications for their entire lives, such as mastery of the English language, the ability to write coherent sentences, and the ability to think for themselves. Reading can open the world to them and train their minds in ways that television, video games, and social media never will.

 

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