Guest Blog Post: The Gift of a Book by Tom Darby

The smallest kindnesses of strangers, things that they probably no longer remember doing, have benefitted me for my entire life. Those gestures combined with the sorcery of books can conjure magic potent enough turn lead into gold!

Tom Darby is a blogger and writer, born in Chateauroux, France, raised in Klamath, California, residing in Spanish Springs, Nevada. He is an award-winning journalist and hall-of-fame radio jock. You can find his stories and other articles here.

Read on for Tom’s example of exactly what I mean…

One of Tom Darby’s “Trees of Mystery” tags.

“The Gift of a Book,” by Tom Darby

The roadside tourist destination opened at seven in the morning, and I was expected to be there an hour later, ready to work. My job was to place a red-on-yellow piece of 15-by-5 inch cardboard on each automobile that read: ‘Trees of Mystery’ in large letters and ‘Shrine of the Redwood Highway,’ below that.

We called them ‘tags,’ those who put them on, ‘taggers,’ and the act of doing so, ‘tagging.’  The object of the job was to slip a piece of wire through the holes at either end of the tag and hook the wire over the bumper so that the tag could be seen as a vehicle passed by on the highway. 

Advertising at its simplest.

There were usually three or four taggers on duty each day in the summer months. Each boy hauled a hundred tags and twice as much precut wire in a leather satchel in, through and around the vehicles that quickly filled the parking lot.

One early morning I approached a young couple from British Columbia, Canada, driving a burnt orange Volkswagen bus and asked if they’d like a tag on their vehicle. They did and I obliged them.

As I stood up I saw a thick paperback book shoved down between the dashboard and windshield. The artwork of a ‘naked woman’ swimming with a gigantic shark, mouth agape and swimming out of the depths to gobble her upheld my attention.

“I jus’ finished it,” the woman said, “Do you want to read it?”

“Yes, please.”

She retrieved it and handed it to me.

“Thank you,” I responded.

It took me all of the summer of 1974 to finish “Jaws,” written by Peter Benchley. That gift helped to germinate, not only my young but ripening imagination but also my continuing desire to write.

Has the kindness of a stranger ever affected you profoundly?

A castle by any other name… Stokesay plus a glimpse of Wales by da-AL

in The green moat and land around Stokesay Castle make me smile!

Oh, England your castles are fabulous living museums, each unique and wonderful, let me count the ways of them… Wait — never mind — according to this list, there are over 2,500 of them if one counts ‘fortified manor houses,’ a.k.a. castles too! Our vacation included London, the British Museum Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3, Bubbly Fun at Bath, Avebury Henge, and the Kelpies of Scotland.

(L-R) Stokesay Castle gatehouse, courtyard, manor, church, and graveyard.

Stokesay Castle of Shropshire, England, is a manor (an important house owned by important people) with enough fortification to deem it a castle even though it was more of a house than a… Well, dear reader, hopefully by now you get the idea…

Stokesay Castle gatehouse features interesting wood carvings.

Built mostly in the 13th century by leading wool merchant Laurence de Ludlow over another castle that continues to partially survive, it’s regarded as the finest survivor of its type. It’s so impressive that there’s a sort of replica of it in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Stokesay Castle is amazingly well preserved.

There’s the gatehouse with fabulous carvings featured on Wikipedia, the courtyard with a well, and the main part that includes a couple of towers, and a hall.

If I woke to these beautiful views each morning, I’d wonder if I were still dreaming.

The views are marvelous from any angle. I love promoting fellow WordPress bloggers — there are more photos of Stokesay Castle at this blog and at this one.

Green as far as the eye can see surrounds Stokesay Castle.

There’s a charming graveyard at a church alongside the manor.

Fortunately, my honey and I were only visiting the graveyard next to the church.

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat,” my upcoming novels, feature romance between an older woman and a younger man, so this gravestone especially intrigued me. Violet Enid Grace Dawson nee Richard, (18th April 1899 – 14th September 1991) was 18 1/2 years older than George Frederick Dawson (25th September 1917 – 27th October 2010)! So sweetly were they buried together that surely they were happy together…

Hoping the couple buried here enjoyed a good times together…

On our way to the rest of our U.K. adventure, we spent a night in Wales. Who knew that in the market town of Dolgellau we’d eat delicious Indian food and homemade bread at a pub near the 200-plus-year-old bed and breakfast where we slept. Ty Seren is Welsh for Star House. Our following morning began among hikers and cyclists, all of us chatting over our mouth-watering hot Welsh breakfasts thanks to our charming hostess/cook, Sharon Watkins…

If we had more time, we’d have delightedly stayed longer in Dolgellau, at Ty Seren with Sharon Watkins.

What’s the oldest place you’ve ever slept in?…

Guest Blog Post: Peni Jo Renner’s call for book reviews

Books can defy time and geography, age and gender, culture and politics, fact and fiction… and they’re among the best friends one can acquire!

Do you absolutely adire books too? Author/blogger Peni Jo Renner has written for Happiness Between Tails here and here and hosted me here. Peni wants to feature your thoughts on your favorite book…

Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner has self-published three books!

Musings of an Author

So what did you read in 2019 that you particularly enjoyed?  Or maybe even less reecently–in the past 2 or 3 years?

Whether it was fiction or nonfiction, I’m looking for book reviews written by fellow readers (and writers!) that I can post on my blog. Whether you loved or hated or were even indifferent to a book, let me know!

If you’re interested, please email me at puritanwitch@gmail.com. Or PM me on Facebook;https://www.facebook.com/PuritanWitch/

I’m looking forward to getting some great recommendations!

brown book page Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

View original post

Happy New Year Everyone from da-AL!!!

Wishing each of you and your loved ones the very best ahead — peace, health, and happiness!!

Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad (l) & Agnetha Fältskog (r), “Abba – The Last Video (Official Video)” on YouTube.

A heartfelt thanks for your visits to Happiness Between Tails — for ‘Taking a Chance’ on this little blog. Never, when I started it a few years ago, did I anticipate that I’d meet so many wonderful people from so many interesting distant places.

Björn Ulvaeus (l) & Benny Andersson (r), “Abba – The Last Video (Official Video)” on YouTube.

Let’s each of us ‘Take a Chance’ on making this world a better place for ourselves and each other, hairy, scaly, feathered, muddy, and all the rest. Hope this makes you smile — keep an eye out for Cher!…

Guest Blog Post: Caregiving for Men by Dan Zeorlin

News alert! Men can be caregivers too.

Since Kansas blogger Dan Zeorlin (a.k.a. MLBerg) became one, he’s shared what he’s learned by writing, “Care Giver’s Manual for Men.” It is absolutely free, neither emails nor strings attached, as a downloadable pdf file. He’s also looking to start a support group.

He first wrote for Happiness Between Tails here. Read on for six of his insights into caregiving…

Caregiver/blogger, Dan Zeorlin (a.k.a. MLBerg), has an absolutely free manual for you!

Observations of a Life Well-Worn: Reflections from a Caregiver, by Dan Zeorlin

  1. Choices: I love to see young, recently-married couples at church with crying babies. Where else would one expect to find such enthusiastic subjects and empathic, experienced audiences? A beautiful encounter is in becoming a Caregiver for someone that you love – and to grow more fully human in sharing life: joys, struggles, strengths, and acceptance. Great opportunity to meet and know God through awesome presence! Of course, it is assumed that a new parent of the crying baby loves her/him. And through the gradual series of choices, we become seasoned Caregivers. 
  2. Disappointment and Farewell to Regret: Show some resolve – grow backbone where it is needed. Do the research to find out what you want and then go for it! If drawbacks are identified in every proposal, then deliver them in a positive manner. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by creating impossible expectations. In other words, allow yourself space to dream big.
  3. What am I waiting for? Get over it! When will it be over? When will my life be through? I don’t know about you, but I need to request a review As Soon As Possible! This doesn’t mean I want fewer days to breathe, eat, sleep, and etc. but merely that I do not wish to spend my life preoccupied with “me” when there is so much more worth living for. Worse off than some…Better off than most – I do not deserve a charmed life. But isn’t this what I have every time I escape into my comfort zone? I need to be taking chances and reach new levels of shared experience. After all, sharing is caring.
  4. Enabling vs. getting a leg up: How do we become better Caregivers? The opportunities to help run rampant; the desire to leave everything neat and tidy is innate; the willingness to clean while becoming exposed to filth, getting dirty, and experiencing heartache can be devastating. Each of us has certain norms and standards, but none of these are absolute. What’s more, the object of desire often moves, and it changes. So instead of keeping the focus on trying to reach a target’s bulls-eye, sometimes the goal becomes quite unimagined and may take on slight variations or be radically different. Approach unforeseen consequences and not-prepared-for conclusions with confidence.
  5. The point is… When you sign up to love unconditionally (i.e., become a Caregiver), you do not control the rules. Pray for strength to say “Yes” each time something is asked of you; have the courage to say “No” whenever it is in the best interests of life. Try to recognize and respect those times when there is no answer other than to “hang in there.” We can be certain that love is served through Caregiving.
  6. What can I do to help? Look for ideas (try reading this: Caregivers Manual for Men) and get on board.

More about Dan Zeorlin: He is a blogger, a supporter, a follower, and a learner. He believes there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes we must build a better mousetrap. His desire for sharing methods to enable persistence in giving care is simply a calling to do the right thing.

Do you know any men who are caregivers?…  

Guest Blog Post: Pt 2 of 2, Ten Commandments of Coming Out by Rhys

The best love we can give each other, as well as ourselves, is to be accepting of who we are. Sharing our experiences, especially the difficult ones that helped us to grow, is the height of generosity. Rhys grew up in India and then relocated to the U.S., where he works as a physician. Together with his boyfriend, Nick, he hosts a truly heartfelt blog. You met him when he told us the first half of his ten commandments to coming out to one’s family.

Here’s the other rest of his commandments…

Photo by Aayush.

Part 2 of 2: “Let it go! 10 commandments of coming out of that damn closet!!” by Rhys

I hope this not-so-exhaustive list will be helpful for you all. (Part 1 of these 10 commandments is here.) Please feel free to reach out to me and/or Nick for any help!

  1. Have resources ready -> Again, going back to my comment about the use of technology, I would say keep some LGBT-friendly movies, newspaper articles, novels, stories of successful personalities, etc., handy. Make sure to say this to your peers and family “Take as much time as you need. Once you are ready, ask me as many questions as you want to. I can share some very helpful resources with you so you can understand more about the LGBTQ+ community.”
  2. Be prepared for aftereffects of the storm -> Coming out can be a SHOCK for some people (who are we kidding, it’s a shock for the majority of people!!). From the person who comes out to the people whom he/she/they come out to, everyone gets affected for a variable period of time. Aftereffects can range from minor behavioral changes to crazy fights (to the point of people being thrown out of their own homes, sadly!). So here comes the con of coming out on video calling – although you aren’t physically there to face those aftereffects every single second, you might feel guilty of not being there to support your peers (or at least I was made to feel extremely guilty for not being there and making a wrong decision of using FaceTIme). Whatever, I have no regrets of how I came out to my parents, and I think it was the right time!). Even the duration of these aftereffects can vary from a few hours to days (in my case) to few months or even years (Nick’s case and most people’s case too), which brings me to my next commandment.
  3. Be patient -> As I mentioned before, it can take up to 5-10 years (or maybe a lifetime) for your family to come to terms with your sexuality. Unfortunately, I know of some of my friends in the LGBTQ+ community whose families have not accepted them yet, despite it being >20 years. But don’t lose hope and be strong….
  4. Be strong -> As I mentioned previously that you must be 100% comfortable with yourself before coming out to people. Being comfortable with one’s self also helps to have that courage to face the world. It is NOT an easy process (but neither is life!). When I say that be strong, it doesn’t mean that you have to be the lone warrior on the battlefield. You have tons of resources at your disposal which you MUST use – movies, music (my coming out song to inspire me was Let it go from Frozen), stories of successful people (Ellen DeGeneres, being one of my inspirations), your partner(s) 😉 , best friends, etc.
  5. Hope for the best and have faith – Eventually, it will work out!! Don’t lose hope, think positive, and try to keep yourself occupied (especially in the immediate coming out period) to destress. Coming out is a tough step (in fact, a MILESTONE for every LGBTQ+ community member), so be PROUD of yourself and everything you have achieved.

I wish you all the very best for the next big step in life.

As I said before, Let it go…..

Love,

Rhys

A bit about Rhys in his own words: Rhys: A simple guy, who was oblivious of the gay world, fell in love with the most unexpected person… Now wants to share what it feels like to be in love and the experiences of being gay….!!!

Rhys and his boyfriend run a great blog.

Here is Part 1 of his 10 commandments.

Has a family member come out to you? What did you or what would you reply to them?…

Guest Blog Post: Pt 1 of 2, Ten Commandments of Coming Out by Rhys

A significant character in my soon-to-be-finished novels, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” and its sequel, “Tango & the Sitting Cat,” is an American/South Asian gay man. While researching his identity, I encountered Rys’ excellent site! Indian by birth and now working as a physician in the U.S., Rhys shares some of his wisdom with us here…

Rhys and his boyfriend operate a great blog.

“Let it go! 10 commandments of coming out of that damn closet!!” by Rhys

As I had promised in my post about coming out to my parents, here are a few tips/tricks on how to come out, if you are very nervous and not able to decide what to do (as I was initially).

The answer to the big question, “how to come out?” is ………… “There is NO one way or magic trick to do it!”

Everyone is different, with different family structures, different backgrounds, and people they grew up with. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing I can tell you to guide you for your coming out process. So, here are the 10 commandments of coming out. I compiled these from mine and Nick’s experience. The list is in NO way exhaustive, but does highlight the most important points:

  1. There is NO need to rush to come out. EVER!! The best time to come out is when you feel like you are prepared – be it 10 weeks, 10 months, or 10 years!
  2. You have to be 100% comfortable with yourself FIRST before coming out to your family, peers, or any random Tom, Dick, or Harry (pun intended) 🙂 If you aren’t comfortable with yourself (physically, mentally, spiritually, sexually, and every way you can think of), it becomes hard to stay strong in such a stressful situation.
  3. It’s 2019 -> Make use of technology. FaceTime, etc., aren’t the most ideal way to come out, but I have realized that having the physical distance can help in decompressing some of the tension and harsh situations, which is VERY common during coming out. I used video calling to come out to my whole family. Since I had no plans of meeting my family for an extended period of time, and I was ready to come out. So, I thought video calling was the answer. Believe me, the physical distance was super helpful, especially to decompress the situation in the first few days (but video calling has its cons as well like not being there to actually encounter the aftereffects, which might make some of us feel guilty – read further below).
  4. Be direct -> If there is any situation in life where you don’t wanna beat around the bush, this is one of those times. The more you talk about random BS and take 30-45 mins to come to the point, your audience would have been exhausted already. (Remember, the average attention span for humans is 25-45 minutes.) I admit of being guilty at this myself too. I talk a lot (if in case you haven’t noticed yet :P), and sometimes, the main point is lost in my jargon. It took me 5 attempts (6 video calls in 3 days) to eventually gather the right words just to say it bluntly “I have a boyfriend, and I am gay!” Boom – silence follows (as if you weren’t expecting that – haha!).
  5. Divide and conquer -> This isn’t ethically the most appropriate title, but it was REALLY helpful. When I started coming out in my med school, I came out one by one to my close friends first. Using the same technique, I first came out to my brother and sister-in-law, and 6 months later to my parents. It serves a dual purpose: not having the added stress from everyone at once and also, the people you came out to already can help others come to terms with the “shock.” My brother and sister-in-law were a HUGE support for my parents at the time when I came out to them over FaceTime.

A little about Rhys in his own words: I am a physician from the East Coast of the USA, who grew up and spent 25 years of his life in India, before moving to the west! Currently living with my boyfriend, Nick, I often post on our joint blog, which we created in 2012 when we started dating. He is also a physician, and we love to travel, are big-time foodies (absolutely love brunches!), and are happy to make new friends always!

Here’s the rest of his commandments! Have you met new friends through blogs? What’s your experience with coming out in any country?…

Missing Dear Mooshie Cat by da-AL

The world is better for having had Mooshie Cat in it.

Dear, dear Mooshie, you are sorely missed. Time with one’s loved ones is never long enough, but how very much I wish I’d had just one more time with you to say goodbye, to thank you for being such an incredible little mate.

You were the spiritual mother of my husband. I know this because you took your self-appointed role quite seriously. That first meeting, you signaled to my soul-mate that he was yours. You reached your arm clear to your armpit, past the shelter cage bars, to swat at him. Repeatedly. Moreover, you sent your angel/employee (who also worked for Southeast Area Animal Control Authority (SEAACA), to urge us that your days were numbered.

You arrived home cuddled in my honey’s arms. You lay in his lap for hours, your locomotive purring tireless. As soon as you made it clear that you were family, you’d stand on your hind legs to slam a hefty (albeit with claws sheathed) kangaroo one-two punch at your sister, whenever your human son would pet her for even a second.

Now your spirit, whether in heaven or reincarnated, must be playing soccer. You’d command your ‘son” (you considered me a lousy player) to lob crumpled paper balls your way, for you to whack-whack-whack them across the room and back to him.

Eventually, you graduated to batting crickets — then mice — then small birds. I doubt our local tiny critters mourns your loss as we do. Your later choice to retire to my mother’s bed must have cause them to celebrate. Not so for my mother’s gentleman cat who you evicted from his formerly cozy stead.

Until all but the last few weeks of your seventeen-ish years, despite your loss of all but one tooth, your appetite was vigorous. From Cheerios and crackers to olives and cucumbers, you enjoyed everything so long as your beloved people dined on it too.

Your long-departed sister, for whom you had neither patience nor fondness,  allowed anyone to pet her. You, unlike her, saved your affection for just your intimates.

You made us feel truly special, dear Mooshie. You, our lovely girl, were the most special of cats. Rest in peace, beautiful soul.

Mooshie the Wonder Cat.

Dear reader, here and here and here is more about Mooshie. Do you have a non-human friend you miss a lot?

Guest Blog Post: Soulmates by Kevin Cooper

Writing can be lonely — unless one has a special friend — like a beloved pet! Do you have a soulmate who’s not human?

Author, songwriter, and avid movie goer and reader Kevin Cooper blogs from England. Two furry mates cheer him for all his endeavors…

Aragorn and Rico when Kevin Cooper and his wife first got them.

* * Soulmates * by Kevin Cooper * *

Our cats are our little soulmates. They bring us a wellspring of joy and happiness and are a huge source of comfort, well-being, and healing.

When we first got the brothers: Aragorn (grey) and Rico (black) at 6 weeks of age, Pat had just come home from hospital having had a major surgery that involved placing a rod in her ribs to support her shoulder blade which hung loose after the muscles around it had wasted away. Having them on the bed with Pat brought such comfort and joy to her.

Aragorn now.

It was only a few months later when I became really ill and bedridden myself for a few days, and I never forget it. Rico never left my side except for natures calls. Before that, he hadn’t really paid any attention to me at all. He was always far too busy exploring every little corner of the house so you can imagine my great surprise when he decided to spend all that time by my side. I know without a doubt that his presence had much to do with my swift recovery.

Rico is quite reserved and doesn’t take to visitors… He loves his privacy and doesn’t like any kind of change in the house. But secretly, he loves to play and loves to be loved. Recently he has taken to fussing a bit as well. I say secretly because no one else ever sees it.

Aragorn is a fusspot. Make up the bed, and he’s on their kicking up a fuss, and rolling around. He has to be in on EVERYTHING and will nosey up to just about anyone.

Rico now.

Whenever we go out, they greet us at the door, and Aragorn fusses… They want to know what we have in the bags, but more importantly, what we have brought for them. And so of course, we ALWAYS remember to get them something!

They are the most lovely of pets and while they do have their moments. (As do all brothers, I’m sure.) I absolutely love watching while they chase and play with each other. But my favourite times are those when they want me to get down on the floor and join them. Each of them has many a time stolen a stylus while I’ve been reading on my kindle or pen from me while I’ve been writing and ran away with it in their mouths to get me to play with them. And sometimes I get a good telling off if I ignore them for too long.

They are seven years old now, and we have been there for each other over the years and will be for years to come. They are a Godsend, and without a doubt, they are Soulmates.

About the author: Kevin Cooper is an author, songwriter, and avid movie goer and reader. He lives in England with his wife and two adorable cats. When he is not out with his wife at the movies or playing on the floor with his cats, you might just find him quietly sneaking away to write about the latest book he has finished reading. You can find out more about his books and music, and the books he reads on his website.

Video Joy to Soothe You by da-AL (with furry and feathered friends)

Being a soon-to-be self-published novelist requires learning a) to wear many hats, b) to be absolutely humble, and c) to continually lavish oneself with self-care.

Happiness came this morning to my doggie and me in the form of a walk to the park. The sky bode the kind of sunny day that entices zillions to relocate to Los Angeles. We were greeted with the scent of fresh-cut grass, the caresses of cool breezes on our faces — and the honking of visiting geese!

Thank you’s to this and this and this and this vlogger for teaching me iMovie techniques that added art and several seconds to this micro-video.

How do you derail interior monologues of self-doubt?…