Live pines and spruces come with baggage.
Add a few pets and you’ve got pandemonium.
The REAL question, dearest Shakespeare, is this:


Tradition calls for a live pine tree,
even one that’s severely crooked
or harboring dormant spider eggs
or shoved through your front door
by a charitable neighbor who refuses
to let the Grinch steal Christmas

The firry beast is more wide than tall,
flatly refuses to stand up straight,
and sucks down drinks by the pitcher
Pyromaniac can turn two dry needles
and a half-watt bulb into a house fire
if you leave him alone for an hour

The mesmerized cat toys with shiny
low-hanging baubles and freaks out
at his own reflection, entangling himself
in the tree skirt as he flees the scene
Then he turns a footlong strand of tinsel
into sparkle-poo he cannot quite shake

The dog is eager to come to his aid
in a canine sugarplum fantasy-come-true
He sniffs and pursues the trailing treat,
sending the cat scurrying up the trunk,
bending the Star of the East due west
The tree leans past the point of no return

And… over… she… goes… TIMBER!
The cat escapes before the crash landing
The guilty-faced dog hangs his head,
enduring a scolding as the tree is righted
When the coast is clear, he helps himself
to half the fresh water in the tree stand

The vacuum cleaner arrives on scene
The dog’s eyeballs float in their sockets
but his desperate pleas cannot be heard
over the clatter and hum of the machine
After it departs, the tree’s alluring trunk
becomes the target of his lifted leg

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In the good old days, when lactose intolerance was yet unknown to me, and local businesses gave things away for free, the mister and I used to hop in the old VW Bus and putter downtown for soft-serve ice cream:


The screen slides open
& out comes our order,
two super-sized cones
& a gratis puppy cone,
which our Lab devours.
Mimicking the sad face
of an emaciated orphan,
he eyes the twisty swirls
in our grip, mine… his…
attempting to discern
which of us is the sucker.
My husband caves first,
tilting his towering treat
toward the eager muzzle.
“Here Buddy, have a lick!”
Earnie’s jaws open wide
and crunch-munch-gulp!
it’s a done deal, leaving
one of us dumbfounded,
one laughing hysterically,
& one with brain freeze.

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During those long winter nights when it is too cold for an outdoor cat to go out, how does he entertain himself?  Scratching in his litterbox and wondering why his poo smells powder-fresh, and how it magically disappears?  Gnawing through the package his favorite treats come in?  Watching the bathtub faucet drip?  All that and more, it seems.  I used to wonder who was messing with my computer.  Now, I think I know:


The mouse is askew,
the icons paw-sized, again
But this time, he’s left a trail,
having forgotten to wipe
his browsing history:

High Jump I – Counters
High Jump II – Refrigerator
Sneak Attacks
Shedding on Demand

Baths and Water
Vacuum Cleaners
The Crate Escape
Pills and Vet Visits

Nuances of Meow
Hissing and Yowling
Body Language
Advanced Ignoring

Birding and Mousing
Skunk: Friend or Foe?
Traffic Smarts

Computer Settings
Cupboards and Closets
Faucets and Doorknobs
Raiding the Dog Dish

Litter Tracking
Hacking up hairballs
Batting Electrical Cords
Let Me In, Let Me Out

It throws a brand new spin
on the nature v. nurture debate
but I am weirdly proud of him;
my clever cat,
just six credits from his Masters

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Questions arose last week about whether Peaches is my first cat, my first foray into feline serfdom.  Actually, he’s not, but I’m a bit out of practice.  We took a kitten into our apartment in 1989, then another, then another…  For the past 28 years, we’ve had at least one and as many as six cats fleeing the vacuum cleaner and winding themselves around our legs.  Runty Caper set the house record for longevity, 23 years.  When she could no longer outrun our puppy, she began playing dead, proof that an old cat can learn new tricks.  As the cats aged, we moved them into a (baby) gated community in a spare bedroom that slowly devolved into a nursing home and then a hospice.  I thought my cat years were over, but during a brisk end-of-autumn walk, our dog flushed Ginger out of a corn field.  Ginger was a decidedly outdoor cat who roamed the neighborhood in weather so inclement it would stop even the postman.  She played with the local skunks, showed up every morning for breakfast, knocked on windows using her paw when she wanted to come in.  It was a new experience for me, a veteran indoor cat person.  When Peaches moved in next door, he was smitten with Ginger and followed her everywhere.  He was heartbroken when we lost her and moped around for weeks, hanging out in our flowerbed pining for her, and eagerly accepting any affection we would give him.  The neighbors (renters dismayed when the owner put the place on the market) closed on a new house last week, one near a state highway.  Afraid for Peaches’ safety and unable to keep him inside all the time, they asked if we’d be willing to take him.

Peaches was docile and affectionate.  His people said he loved being indoors, probably because it was such a rare treat.  Our new adoptee slept in his basket, basked in the sunny bay window, quickly mastered his litterbox, and licked the gravy off his canned food before finishing the tidbits.  Despite ample opportunities for escape, he never tried to make a break for it.  I figured it would be simple to transition him to a house cat.  WRONG.  On Day 5, he did a runner.  Why would he take off on such a cold, drizzly day?  I can only guess he spied his name on the calendar next to the word vet.  I spent the better part of the morning trying to find and capture the scrappy bastard, completely forgetting that since orange cats possess limited ability to camouflage, Peaches would have spent the last two years honing his feline Ninja skills and familiarizing himself with every nook and cranny in the neighborhood.  Trust me, opposable thumbs are no match for a combination like that.

Below is my account of the experience told in SHADORMA, a Spanish form with six lines and the following syllable count: 3 / 5 / 3 / 3 / 7 / 5.  Any subject is fair game; no final shift or turn is necessary.  Shadorma may be written as a single stanza or a series.


Keen instincts:
On scheduled vet day,
he slips out
the dog door,
reveling in freedom and
his own cleverness

Detailed maps
of the neighborhood:
every fence,
every tree,
spaces under decks and sheds
where he can lay low

outfox, outrun, hide
until owner
slogs home in muddy rain boots,
cancels appointment

Internal clock:
wait fifteen minutes,
purr sweetly,
and insist the whole thing was
just coincidence

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Whew!  It has been a really busy week!
Hubby’s birthday
Our 29th anniversary
The neighborhood block party
A doctor’s appointment
Scheduling other appointments spawned by that appointment
Pursuing an idea for a new writing project
And on top of all that, we’ve added a new member to our family:

This is Peaches.  As they packed up to move to a new house along the highway, a dangerous situation for their outdoor kitty, our neighbors asked if we would take him.  He’s orange, which sealed the deal for me, with amber eyes, Gremlin ears, and a tail that’s fluent in sign language.  He is shamelessly affectionate.  He likes flannel and canned cat food. His first meeting with the dogs proved him to be lightning-fast, adept at finding hiding spots, and in possession of the most venomous hiss this side of the Mississippi.  Once he has visited the vet and recovers from getting snip-snipped, he will be allowed outside again.  I’ll post more poetry as soon as I have the time and inspiration to write it.

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After a week or two of sweltering heat, we look forward to the mid-summer rains that thunder down so hard and heavy that the parched ground can’t begin to soak it all up.  The runoff swells the placid creek, which rushes and foams through the narrows, then relaxes into a wide pool near the footbridge.  Our black Lab used to jump headlong into this opportunity every time it presented itself.  Just something in his DNA, I guess.  I would look on, petrified, as he fought to stay upright and keep his nose above water, and wonder if his heart was pounding
as hard as mine.  At the end of the ride, he would emerge on wobbly legs with this LOOK on his face… a look I could not fully identify with until I finished my first public poetry reading; as I headed back to my seat, the expression on my face felt strikingly similar.  This poem is a monotetra, by the way, a form I featured in a prior post on donuts.


As buckets tumble from the sky
and supersaturate July
the lazy creek runs fast and high,
a water slide, a water slide

Our Labrador cannot resist
a thrill so serendipitous
One daring leap and he’s adrift
the current swift, the current swift

Pumped with pure adrenaline
he rolls and bobbles as it wends
hanging tight ’round curves and bends
until it ends, until it ends

Then up the muddy bank he climbs
all lolly-tongued and starry-eyed
Delight and terror, when combined
can be sublime, can be sublime

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It’s hard to believe we’ve had Callie four years already.  Even harder to believe that the first two families she was placed with returned her.  In a short time, she has grown into a wonderful dog:  sleek and beautiful, alert to every unusual noise in the neighborhood, a well-matched mate for her brother, Tailor.  She had a little slip-up in the beginning and for
a long time afterward, she distanced herself from us, waiting anxiously for the other shoe to drop.  When she finally figured out that this is her “forever home,” she let her guard down and beautiful things started to happen.  She loves belly rubs now, gives spontaneous kisses, lays her head on my lap when we watch TV, and curls up next to me under the covers each night.  I think I could safely say she’d take a bullet for me,
if it ever came to that.  This is Callie’s story, told in her own words:


A shelter’s a shelter
But not really a home
You’re surrounded by dogs
But so very alone

People look, pass you over
It’s so hard to cope
You pray for your “freedom ride”
Your ticket to hope

Maybe so, maybe not
I’ve had two such before
But I didn’t fit in
And they showed me the door

One called me “too timid”
The other, “too bold”
Now I’m eight months and counting
And likely too old

I’ve outgrown puppy features
My bloodline is clear
My “mix” contains pit bull
A breed that they fear

I sit oh so pretty
And plead with sad eyes
But they see what I am
And they pass right on by

Then a dog and his people
Walk up to my cage
He’s a black and white bulldog
They won’t be afraid

For a place in this family
I’d give my right arm
They ask for a meeting
Maybe third time’s a charm?

Then away we all go
In their green SUV
On the dash are signed papers
Declaring me free

My new house is perfect
And nothing is barred
Couch and bed are pet-friendly
There’s a big fenced back yard

I try hard to play Beta
I want this to last
And my drive to be Alpha
Has checkered my past

But my tomboy side beckons
And we wrestle and race
My teeth “slip” and cause damage
In a fast game of chase

It’s a big gaping wound
And it looks really bad
But my brother forgives me
He’s not even mad

He nurses it bravely
And tries to keep mum
But our folks see and scold me
My future looks glum

I’m so very sorry
And I cry half the night
Knowing just what will happen
As soon as it’s light

I dream of the cuffs
And the ride back to jail
But I wake and they hug me
While bro wags his tail

I thank God for my family
The kind we all need
Ones who love and accept us
Despite our misdeeds

And I adore every inch
From nose to tail-end
Of the world’s greatest brother
And my very best friend

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blog award
My very first blogging award–an auspicious occasion that deserves its own post!  I’ll chuck the boring, longwinded speech and instead, share
a fun anecdote, some inside info, and links to my favorite stuff.  Enjoy!

I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Aston Kamunde, whose ethereal poems express his unique perspective on life.  If you’re a poetry lover (or even if you’re not) check out Aston’s blog.  Always,
a line or phrase will jump out and speak to me in a very personal way.

I’m excited beyond words (almost) to have been chosen.  “Versatile” is the perfect description of my blog, a true hodge-podge-collage of memoir and poetry.  Per the rules, I am to share seven things about myself, then pass the torch to other deserving blogs.  So here goes:

1.  For me, the only thing better than a writing prompt is a dictation straight from the Muse, who usually finds her voice around 4 AM.

2.  For exercise and inspiration, I walk two miles a day.  Incidentally, that’s exactly the distance to the public library and back.

3.  I have a cat and two pound pups.  The cat can camouflage anywhere.  One dog loves to lick the exhaust pipe of my Honda more than he likes to lick himself (for the record, a lot).  The other dog shifted our motor-home into gear and drove it into a ditch at a rest area.  No, not kidding.  Bonus:  Hubby was inside the RV at the time.  Double Bonus:  He was in the bathroom, terrified that Armageddon had caught him with his pants down.  Fortunately, the motorhome and all involved parties escaped serious injury and went on to live happily ever after.

rv tow

4.  I love every kind of ethnic food, own a wok, and can cook Thai.

5.  I almost threw up from nerves at my first open mike night.

6.  I cannot play practical jokes or poker; my face is a dead giveaway.

7.  My writing heroes are Erma Bombeck and Weird Al Yankovic.  They recently joined forces on a new book:  At Wit’s End Over Word Crimes(JK!  Erma is deceased and Weird Al is probably hunkered down in his basement working out the rhymes for his next parody masterpiece.)

For additional bio, see my introductory post, Just Joan in a Nutshell.

* * * * * * *

And now, for my nominees.  I have hand-picked a JJ42 post for each of you and ask that, in addition to sharing seven fun facts and passing on the torch, you respond in the comment area with a link to a post from your own archives that you think I will enjoy.  Without further ado:

1.  Elan Mudrow of is a true wordsmith.  His blog features intriguing vintage photos paired with thought-provoking poetry.  He treats every subject with care, from the light and humorous to the serious and melancholy.  For you, Elan, an assortment of seasonal tree poems, A Year of Sap and Branches.

2.  Bitter Ben of  Who knew bitterness could be so delicious?  Ben recently celebrated a huge milestone — 700 blog posts!  So he has a massive archive of bitter selections to sample.  For you, Ben, I have chosen The Twelve Banes of Christmas, a short list of the Super-Villains that fill my holiday season with bitterness.

3.  Marissa of  This Queen of Rhythm and Rhyme gives ol’ Dr. Seuss a run for his money!  And her wry humor and surprise endings are the icing on the cake.
If you like rhymes, come take a peek.
Some here are common, some unique.
And of course, my favorite kind: oblique!
Marissa rocks some fine technique
on her WordPress site; that’s my critique.
For you, Marissa, backstage pass to the Secret Universe of the Purse.

4.  Professor Julez of  Zany, offbeat, and full of energy, this stand-up-comedian-trapped-inside-of-a-math-teacher is a class act.  For you, Julez, Things Worth a Double Take, a collection of life equations that don’t quite add up.

5.  Trek of  Infused with subtle humor and unfailing honesty, her blog is nothing short of addictive.  As I scrolled through the archives, I was amazed that two totally unrelated brains could think so much alike.  For you Trek, and your elderly Dog #3, I have selected a bittersweet canine tale, Earnest and True to the End.

Honorable Mention:  TippyGnu of, a fellow introvert whose wit and imagination flow effortlessly through his stories, both fiction and non-fiction.  He proclaims his blog to be an “Award-Free Zone” but I want to recognize him anyway.  TippyGnu, meet King Kong-Cinderella, the hapless heroine of Halloween 1977.

Thank you again, Aston, and congratulations to all.  Happy blogging!

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I was dusting the other day and found this lying on the printer:

letter to Santa

You’ve probably deduced that parts of this post are fictional.  The part about me dusting, for instance.  Congratulations, Sherlock, well done!  Now we can move on to more perplexing mysteries, like where Tailor learned to type.  And in outline form, no less!  Do you think he knows where I keep the envelopes and stamps?  Can he reach the flag on the mailbox?  What will happen when he finds out the truth about Santa?  And discovers that my credit cards are the key to the wonderful world of  What if he grows up to be a lawyer?  Like so many pet parents, I worry.  But for today, I’m content to let him revel in the magic of Christmas.  I’ll hug him tight for remembering Ginger and Callie in his letter and vouch that he’s a good boy if the North Pole should call me requesting verification.  Of course, Santa will bring him everything he asked for, except maybe the heated indoor pool… and that giant stick from the back yard, the one he knows he isn’t allowed to bring in the house.  Maybe I’ll slip a Roomba under the tree… just because he was cheeky enough to go behind my back and ask Santa Claus for the stick! After he and Roomba are through chasing each other, we’ll take turns bobbing for chicken, straight from the bucket, then flop down in front of the TV.  From my cozy corner seat, I’ll count my blessings, beginning with the one wielding the remote, the one sprawled across my lap, the one meowing to go outside, and the one snoring from the depths of an extra-crispy food coma.  If I start crying, you can blame it on Hallmark; those sappy holiday movies get me every time!

Wishing you a blessed season filled with laughter, love, and memories.

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