Guest Blog Post: “Five Across, Four Down,” in Sharon Lynne Bonin-Pratt’s exact words

Art by Sharon Lynne Bonin-Pratt
Art by Sharon Lynne Bonin-Pratt

Love words? So do I! No matter how hard we try to be precise though, verbal communication can be confusing. Here fellow blogger, Sharon Lynne Bonin-Pratt, shows us one example of how when we combine our actions with our words, magic can result…

Sharon Bonin-Pratt's Ink Flare

That which we encounter everyday should be that which we celebrate. That which we celebrate can be that which teaches us how better to do what we love. And that which we love can inspire us to write, even when we think our inspiration took off with the last Mongol invasion of Central Asia.

Crossword puzzles occupy a lot of my time, especially true in the last eight years. I don’t have an obsessive love of crosswords, but my mom always did. A pop-in visit to see my folks was as likely to be met with the urgently asked, “What’s a seven letter word for something important?” (gravity) as a heartfelt, “Glad you came by.” Right there, the beginning of a story for NaNoWriMo. Whose mom wants the right puzzle word more than a visit from her progeny? Yours, course. (Well, mine, but you know what I mean.) You thought…

View original post 1,137 more words

Guest Blog Post: “Molly the unofficial Therapy dog,” in Darren Sleep’s exact words

Don’t care for dogs? Scared of them? No matter. Give one enough time and they’ll will make you fall in love with them. If you take a look first here, and secondly here, and then lastly here, you’ll understand how I’m my own best example of this!

Darren Sleep of Northern England, who’s blog I recommend everyone visit, tells how Molly dog converted him…

Molly the spaniel
Could you resist Molly?

I was truly honoured to be asked to write this, my first guest post!

I would like to introduce you to Molly, also known as ‘Mollymop’, ‘Fuzzbutt’, or several other less repeatable names depending on her current level of mischievousness. Molly is our little buddy.

Molly sprawled on floor.
Mollymop or Fuzzbutt?

A confession: Molly is not our dog. She belongs to our friends Abi & Tom who run the flower nursery where my wife Susan works. Molly has the run of the site all day and is utterly devoted to Susan, at least partly because Susan often has a pocketful of doggy treats.

Molly loves tummy rubs.
Molly loves tummy rubs.

Molly is a Liver and White English Springer Spaniel, bred from working stock (very different from show stock Springers which almost look like a different breed). She is quite elderly now, at 11, and spends a lot of time snoozing. When awake her age does not seem to slow her down!

Molly dog with a toy
Still playful at 11.

My own relationship with dogs has been a complicated one. Like Susan, we had a black Labrador as a family dog when I was a teenager. I did not really trust dogs then, even our Labrador was a bit grumpy (rare for the breed). I also did a newspaper delivery round and worked as a postman/mailman for a time – these also taught me to be wary of dogs. We have never had our own dog in 30+ years together because of career and other commitments.

Molly among plants
Admiring nature.

Then in 2011 Susan started working for Abi & Tom and regaled me with tales of how lovely they (and their dog, Molly ) were. So she took me to visit one weekend and I met Molly. I was smitten by this friendly, curious but slightly feral and very mischievous looking beastie. When out of sight her favourite hobbies are raiding rubbish bins and eating and/or rolling in carrion, so she is frequently a bit ‘fragrant’ but we love her anyway.

Molly sleeping
Demonstrating how to relax.

My own fondness for dogs has grown a lot since meeting Molly – I frequently go and make a fuss of friendly looking dogs that I see. For several years Molly was joined by a beautiful Golden Retriever pup, Ella, but Ella had to be rehomed with Abi’s sister in late 2016, leaving Molly alone again. Susan and I both adored Ella too!

Earlier this summer (2017), my struggle with depression came to a crisis point and I had a meltdown at work one morning. I was a shaking, weeping mess and went straight to my doctor. When Susan picked me up from the doctor my only request was that we go and visit Molly as I knew some dog therapy was the only way I was going to calm down that day. I spent the afternoon at the nursery with Molly and knew that even if I never have a dog of my own, I was now a devoted fan of dogs.

Molly in bed
Now Molly has beds at two homes!

A few weeks later, when I was back on an even keel, a family emergency meant that Abi & Tom had to go away and were faced with the possibility of putting Molly in boarding kennels alone for the first time in years, and they knew she hated being in kennels. It was a no-brainer for us and we offered to have her for a few days. We loved having her and have since had Molly for two more weekends, with another planned this month. She now settles instantly and is completely at home.

We have attached a bolt to the food cupboard and bought a set of bowls, a leash and a dog bed to keep at our house. Basically all the paraphernalia except the actual dog!

I fully acknowledge my place in the pecking order is several rungs below my wife in Molly’s eyes. She really is devoted to Susan but that is OK. I obviously kind of like Susan myself – so fully understand. But it doesn’t matter. When Molly sees me she gives me the kind of enthusiastic greeting I have never experienced from a human being and makes me feel that there is a corner of my world where everything is OK.

Visit Darren at his wonderful blog!

Has a dog helped you?

Guest Blog Post: “Hello new moms! Squash your worries and grab some happiness!!” in Rama Arun’s exact words

"Don't let anyone drain you of your happiness today. Be drama free. Rise above the petty stuff." Trent Shelton

Who hasn’t experienced stress? Whether you’re a mom or not, Rama Arun’s wise suggestions can help …

Rama's Zone

Let me tell a short story of mine. When I had my daughter 3 years ago, I thought my life has flipped upside down. I struggled from everything like mood swings, depression, loneliness, breastfeeding, cooking with baby, sleepless nights, felt useless and constant disagreement with partner. Totally unmotivated mom I could say. I felt heavy due to the demands placed on my shoulders each and every day. Even though, my husband helped me a lot in household chores, I felt some burden in me. I wanted someone to motivate me. Major stress built around me. The feelings I experienced was overwhelming and new, as I live away from family and friends it became more stressful.

As a new mom, I was constantly seeking answers in google. I googled the most ridiculous things. If people judge my parenting I started responding and felt guilt about my parenting. It continued for a…

View original post 847 more words

Guest Blog Post: “Nature Cure by Richard Mabey: Overcoming depression through a love of nature,” a book review in Denzil Walton’s exact words

"Nature Cure," by Richard MabeyThe healing properties and potential of nature have always been known, but are finding a “comeback” these days, with hip terms like forest bathing now being recommended from psychiatrists’ couches. The book “Nature Cure” presents a personal re-discovery of the benefits of nature.

Richard Mabey is one of the UK’s finest nature writers. The first of his 32 books was Food for Free (1972), and his latest is The Cabaret of Plants: Forty Thousand Years of Plant Life and the Human Imagination (2016).

Unfortunately, between 2000 and 2002, Mabey suffered a severe depression. We find him at the start of the book in bed, blankly gazing at the wall. But encouraged by friends and realizing the need for a change of air, he uproots himself from the family house in the Chilterns where he and his sister have lived for 110 years between them, and heads off to East Anglia to live in a room in a farmhouse. His room is “like a small forest” with “more oak inside it than out.” And here he strings up a series of low-energy lamps and makes his nest, amazingly not with a computer but two manual typewriters.

Throughout, Mabey describes his breakdown and steady recovery with his characteristic laid-back style, like your favourite uncle relating exploits from a distant past. We get a glimpse of what may have caused his freefall into depression when he describes what it takes to be a full-time writer: “doggedness to be alone in a room for a very long time.”

His honesty is admirable. Owning up to depression is never easy, even these days, perhaps especially for a successful writer at the pinnacle of his career (he had just completed the epic and lauded Flora Britannica). Even more difficult was when depression robbed him of his desire to write: “it made me lose that reflex, it was like losing the instinct to put one foot in front of the other.” But obviously Mabey regained that reflex, and how he did is very touching – and through writing he began to unlock “pieces of me that had been dormant for years.”

His style is warmly conversational, making the book easy and pleasurable to read, despite the subject matter. He gently leads you from subject to subject, so that you forget where the conversation started. One moment he is describing wild horses on Redgrove Fen, and his musings about their origins leads to cave paintings in France and then to local Stone Age flint mines in Norfolk, and somehow to Virginia Woolf and moats. Is this what he refers to later as “free-range reading?”

Nature Cure is definitely a recommended read, for anyone interested in good writing about nature, and the cure he describes might well be of benefit to others suffering from depression too.

Denzil Walton writes two blogs: Discovering Belgium and Life Sentences.

How do you live? by da-AL

Nest of chicks
Thanks Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com

“You only die once.

You live every day.”

Quote by John Feal

John Feal founded the FeelGood Foundation, which helps 9/11 responders as they continue to deal with the aftereffects of dealing with injuries and toxins.

We must, he reminds us, make the most of our lives. Every day we get out of bed offers us a new opportunity.

Good deeds, moreover, are infectious. In a recent radio interview Feal recounted how, when he’s in line to buy coffee, he often pays for the drink of whoever’s behind him.

His philosophy: when we’re kind, we can’t help but be kind to others.

The kindness of others has helped me to be a better person. How about you?

Magic: David Sedaris Makes a List by da-AL

If you don’t already know who David Sedaris is, you should. He’s a great writer, that’s why — moreover, he’s a fabulous performer of his writings.

Author David Sedaris

His most recent book is least like his prior books. For those new to his writing, it’s easier to start with any of his older books. His recent, “Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002),” is his most personal and darkest.

Regardless of whether you hate him or never read a single sentence of his, he’s a mega-publishing success.

With that held in your mind, dwell upon the fact that many years ago, when he was very young and very depressed, he wrote up …

A  L i s t

Years later, he’d gotten every single thing on it and more!

Author David SedarisI listened to him reading his book and didn’t read it in print, so I’m paraphrasing …

David Sedaris’ 10 Reasons to Live

  1. Christmas
  2. Family beach trip
  3. Writing a published book
  4. Seeing my name in a magazine
  5. Watching ‘C’ grow bald
  6. (This one I couldn’t figure out what he was saying)
  7. Seeing Amy (his actress sister) on tv
  8. Other people’s books
  9. Outliving my enemies
  10. Being interviewed by Terry Gross (host and co-executive producer of the hugely popular National Public Radio show, “Fresh Air”)

Me? My lists tend to be daily ‘to do’ ones. Often I have to shake myself and look at the bigger of what I’m trying to achieve. Once I do, though, my life seems to track better. With a good optimistic overview of where I hope to go, work doesn’t seem as much like work and patience comes more easily.

What’s worked for you? Do you keep lists?

Love is everything by da-AL with Video by Mengwen Cao

Mengwen Cao
Mengwen Cao

Listening … Loving … Accepting … Understanding … Courage …

Love demands ongoing practice and desire. Not always easy, but always rewarding.

Watch how Mengwen Cao comes out to her parents and how they respond. She’s a photographer, videographer, and multimedia producer. Born in Hangzhou, China, she came to the United States in 2012.