This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Doris Plaster: An A to Z Success Story

        Today I am honored to have Doris Plaster as my guest.  Her story is a great testimonial for the possibilities of creative inspiration added to participation in Blogging from A to Z.  Here is Doris in her own words.

The story behind the 50-word stories
A 50-word story? How in the world can someone write a story with such few words? I pondered as one day I came across a portfolio with interesting quick stories. They were beautifully crafted, made perfect sense and left me with an “Oh” expression by the end of each story.
When Lee announced the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I looked at it as an interesting opportunity to establish some discipline related to writing. It’d also be a great opportunity to explore other blogs.
But I don’t have time to write daily! I thought, with disappointment. I live a busy life, holding a full time job as Director of Social Services in a 135-bed nursing home. Additionally, I have a home and family to take care of.
Yet I am not a person to easily give up.
As if a magic answer, the idea of writing 50-word stories flickered in my mind. In actuality, it would become a double challenge: writing something daily and mastering 50-word pieces. I chose elderly and healthcare as my preferred themes for the stories due to that being my area of expertise--and my passion.
I had a plan. I signed up!
The story behind the “Home Sweet Nursing Home” book.
The A to Z project was the most fun writing activity since I began blogging a year ago. The effort of assembling the vignettes, based on real experiences, containing dialogue, characters, and a story line was definitely an amazing challenge. I was so thrilled when I began receiving numerous comments with interesting discussions, and definitely, valuable feedback. My excitement was even more heightened as I noticed an increased number of readers, and quite a few compliments expressed. By the end of the challenge, about five of my readers suggested I publish the stories, given that they were so unique and well-written.
I was greatly surprised! I had no intention to publish a book anytime soon. And surely not when I signed up for the A to Z Challenge.
I gave it some thought, mentioning it to my husband, who was very supportive of my readers’ idea. After several days of debating, I finally made the decision.
I will get the A to Z stories published!
Another challenge began. Small steps toward the world of publication were being made. I was nervous and excited at the same time.
Getting my stories published was a rewarding decision, I thought. Especially when I touched and smelled my first book. Home Sweet Nursing Home was released a couple of months ago, and is available through Amazon.
Since it’s a small book, it was a fairly decent journey to publication. I learned some experience that may help in the future should I decide to publish another book.
Home Sweet Nursing Home seems to have the appreciation of many people that have had the change to read it. I’ve received encouraging comments from friends, colleagues, and workers from the healthcare field. I have received an invitation to write and speak at a local healthcare association. I received an email from the Alzheimer’s Association, Missouri Chapter, asking where they could buy my book, as they wanted to give it to their support group facilitators. I’ve been invited to guest post on other blogs, as well. Last week, I was interviewed by a local writer wanting to know how I was inspired to write my book.
Sometimes a simple idea can develop into a successful project. Your heart and passion must be in it. Motivation, dedication and commitment are equally important.
The link to my book on Amazon is:
I am thankful for all the blogger friends who joined my blog during the A to Z Challenge, and for the marvelous friends who encouraged me to publish the stories.
Thank you, Lee, for having me as your guest. You have certainly been a great blogger friend and leader. I appreciate your and Stephen T. McCarthy’s support. You guys are awesome!

        Thank you, Doris, for your wonderful and inspiring story.  I encourage readers to support Doris's efforts.  Her success is your success.  Please share this post with others.  Who knows?  Perhaps you or someone you know will be the next one with a similar story to tell.

        Visit Doris's blog at Hold My Hand: A social worker's blog.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Keeping It Short

          Before I started blogging I wasn't familiar with flash fiction, drabbles, or other forms of very short fiction.  I had seen a few short, short stories that were a sentence or two long, but I thought they were more like jokes or novelties than any serious writing form.  I had seen the mini stories like those in Reader's Digest but I didn't think of those as a form of story-telling.

            When I heard the term short story I tended to think in terms of ten or twenty pages.   That's more my style since I tend to yammer on and on sometimes.  I'm not content with stating things simply.  I like descriptions, lengthy dialog, and prolific pondering.  When it comes to putting things down on paper (or on the computer screen) I probably talk too much.

           I guess I should probably learn the art of reticence.  I need to learn how to KISS (Keep it short and simple).

            How are you with keeping it short and simple?   What do you do to keep from being overly wordy?  Or do you prefer a certain element of wordiness?   Is there a particular form of short writing that you particularly like?

            During the A to Z Challenge Doris Plaster of "Hold my hand"  A social worker's blog presented us with wonderfully crafted stories told in 50 words.  She has now compiled these into Home Sweet Nursing Home, a book available from Amazon.   Doris will be my special guest this Wednesday August 31.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Sparkfest! Part 3

            Today I offer my final topic for Sparkfest!.  Follow the link to find entries from other participants.

Is there a book or author that changed your world view?

            I was enthralled by science fiction in my earlier reading days.  I still recall in third grade having read a Robert Heinlein novel, the name which eludes me now, which sparked my imagination about the possibilities of literature.  The sci fi adventures of Tom Swift were a steady diet of reading that I consumed, along with the mysteries of the Hardy Boys.  

            Later, when I was in junior high school and had money of my own to spend, I joined the Doubleday Dollar Book Club and began reading a wider range of literature.  Taking advantage of the special introductory offers, I soon had memberships in the Science Fiction and the Mystery Book Clubs as well.  I was now buying books on a monthly basis and my library was expanding at a rapid pace.  

            Then, there were the books and other literature that we had to read for school.  The standard English curriculum usually provides a decent overview of literature that is considered great or essential reading for a college bound student.  I read, or at least gained an awareness of many of these works of literature.  Compared to other students where I attended school I think I was probably pretty well-read.

          After I started taking literature classes in college, my world view changed dramatically as far as literature.  My introduction to Southern Literature opened my eyes to a different way of writing and thinking than what I had previously been reading.   Now I listed my favorite authors as being Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Cormac McCarthy among others.   I could relate to many of the things about which they wrote.

         When I was attending the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in the early 1970s, my creative writing professor Robert Drake introduced me to the author who would have the biggest affect on my world view and the way I wrote.  The author was Flannery O'Connor.  She had an accessible style that made her works easy to read, but her themes and stories were unique, almost like a Southern Gothic version of the Twilight Zone writing that had influenced me so much when I was younger.  O'Connor had written the types of things that were similar to what I had begun to write at that time.  I began to see that there was a place for literature that dealt with Christian issues without being overtly Christian literature.

          I like reading a good message, but I don't want it to be in my face.  A good story with a Christian theme can be told without the author preaching it.  O'Connor's stories are usually about people who are not especially good and sometimes pure rotten, but she raises questions that make the reader think.  I can read her stories repeatedly and always see a profundity in her message--a message which is not always immediately evident.  O'Connor entertained me with her stories, but provided me with mental nourishment which gave my mind something to chew on after the story had passed.

         Flannery O'Connor's writing made me realize that substantive religious writing didn't have to be a glowing feel-good story from Sunday school class.   Nor did writing stories with religious themes require scaring the reader with hell-fire preaching.  Sometimes a story can merely cause a reader to contemplate ideas that have universal application and to realize that many of us may have similar questions that may not always have the easiest answers.  Fiction should entertain, but it should also enrich us in some way.   Flannery O'Connor showed me that good fiction should have hidden layers and subtleties that make the stories stick with us long after we've read them.

         Are you a fan of Southern Literature?   Do you think fiction should contain a message that stimulates thinking?   Do you prefer a story that is obvious or one with underlying messages?    What was your journey as a reader like?


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sparkfest! Part 2

        Today I am continuing with the Sparkfest which is hosted by The Writer Coaster.


What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?

        I'm sad to say that the progress on my current Work in Progress has been put into very slow motion, but it is still active unlike some of my works that are on the shelf accumulating dust.  My NaNo novel from 2010, Time Light, is something that I continue to work on and think about.  In other words it's not dead.  My preparation and wrap-up activities for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge have taken a great deal of my time in the first half of this year and catching up from that, keeping my blog current, and just dealing with daily life provide plenty to veer me off course.  It's really a poor excuse, but I'm sticking with it.

       It would be difficult to pinpoint the spark of inspiration for Time Light.   The style is an amalgam of the styles of modern writers that I have read over the years.  I'd like to think that it is my own style, but it is similar to many modern writers.   For what it's worth (and I don't think much) according the web site I Write Like, my style is like Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club.  I won't complain about that comparison, although I've never read anything by Palahniuk so I couldn't say for sure and that being the case I certainly can't cite him as being any influence or inspiration to my writing.  My writing is my style and I'll take credit or accept blame for it.

      One could probably find quirks in the writing that might one day identify the style as my own.  I hope that will eventually be the case.   I'll have to consider this question of inspiration more as I continue to finish my novel and then as I revise my manuscript. Maybe that spark will come to me and then again, maybe it won't.

        Do you like to be compared to other established authors?   Would you want your writing to be mistaken for that of a well known author?   Have you run your writing sample through I Write Like?   Who did you write like?



Monday, August 22, 2011


        I'm away on vacation this week.   Sparkfest hosted by The Writer Coaster seemed like another one of those interesting concepts where I could pay tribute to some of my favorite authors or books to give some idea of where my influences come from.  I will try my best to make my rounds to the entries of those participating, but my internet access may be limited so please bear with me.  I will be posting Sparkfest entries throughout this week.

Here's what Sparkfest is all about:

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? 
What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?
Or, Is there a book or author that changed your world view?

As writers, we're always striving to get out a message of inspiration to others. This blogfest is a celebration for those who have done this for us. Join the Spark Blogfest, aka Sparkfest, by posting your answer to any of the three prompts above (or make one up as long as it fits the theme).

I'll make it worth your while!
  • There will be three Amazon Gift Cards ($15, $10, $5) awarded to random participants!
  • The blogger who writes my favorite entry will get an interview on my blog so they can tell us more about their awesome source of writerly inspiration!
  • By networking with other writers, you gain followers and comments for your own blog.

Only one Sparkfest post August 22-26 is required to participate.

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? 

       I won't say it was so much a particular book as it was a writer.  Rod Serling was a screenwriter who was the voice and genius of the classic television show The Twilight Zone.  I was in third grade when the show first aired in 1959 and I was immediately hooked. 

          This was the first television show that had real impact on me and it was primarily due to the writing.  Most of the episodes were written by Serling himself.  Stories that I wrote as a child were modeled after Serling's style.  Later when book anthologies based on the show were released I would add them to my home library.  I would read and reread the stories.   I incorporated Serling's use of twists and irony to create stories of horror, science fiction, and social commentary.  

          For me, Rod Serling was much like Stephen King has been to more recent generations of writers.  The stories of Twilight Zone were my earliest inspiration to write.

          Are you a fan of Twilight Zone?   Do you have a favorite episode?  

          To visit other participants or join in with your own influences visit The Writer Coaster.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Bad Billies Who Were Bullies


       The story of the "Three Billy Goats Gruff" was one of my favorites when I was a small child.  The term "billy goat" was funny sounding.  Then when you added a silly sounding word like "gruff" to the title you reached the point of absurdity--just the thing to capture a kid's attention.  Round the story out with one nasty troll collecting a toll to cross a bridge and you had a classic tale.

        It seemed odd to me why a goat should be called "billy" or for that matter why a person who lived in a place like the mountains of Appalachia would be called a "hillbilly".   In my earliest years, my main experience with anything referred to as "Billy" was my cousin Billy.

        Cousin Billy was a few years older and I looked up to him not just because he was taller than me, but also because he had some really cool toys.  Since he was older he didn't seem to want to have too much to do with me.  He certainly did not want me touching his toys.  But I accepted that for what it was.  He was diplomatic about the whole situation and I certainly wouldn't call him a bully.

        However, most of the kids I knew who were named Billy came across as bullies.  Actually I only remember two Billies whom I knew when I was young and I don't remember them in a very good way.

        The first one was Billy Lado.  I was probably about five years old at the time.  He was around a year older and lived about a half a block away from my family's house on West 143rd Street in Cleveland, Ohio.  His mother was French--at least that's what my mom said because she had that kind of an accent I guess.

        In my last encounter with Billy Lado, I was visiting him to show off a newly acquired coloring book that my father had bought me at the circus the previous night.  I was especially proud of the picture of the juggler.  We were on his back patio and my coloring book was there on the ground open to the juggling picture which was laying there ready for me to color.  Then, without any warning, Billy stood up and peed on my coloring book. I wailed and ran home to tell my mother.  I don't know what transpired as a result of this, but I do know my mother was livid.  I never hung around with Billy Lado after that.

       The other Billy bully incident came about five years later after we had moved to San Diego.   Billy Blackburn was also about a year older than I and lived a few houses down from ours.  We had a tenuous friendship if one could even say we had any friendship.  I usually tried to avoid him, but there were times when I guess he had no one else to play with and I was his friend for that day--or perhaps victim would be a more apt term.

       It was shortly after the Christmas of 1960.  One of my prized gifts from my parents was a football. I was not particularly interested in sports, but I was proud of my new football.  I made the mistake of showing it off to Billy B.  We played with it for a while.  It was probably one of those days when none of his usual friends were available.  I could tell that he had an eye on my football and his covetousness got the best of him.  I didn't actually see him take it home with him, but I knew he took it and he knew he took it.  My mother made an attempt to intervene through his mother, but to no avail.  I never saw my football again.   The last I ever heard from Billy Blackburn was a phone call where he used words I had never heard before.  I later learned from my mother that they were very bad words that I had better never use.

      I knew a few more Billies after that, but none had much influence.  I also knew some Bills, Wills, and Williams, but they always seemed to be okay.  Maybe it's because Billy is close to sounding like bully and the similarity influences some boys with that name.  I wonder if that's what happened with Billy the Kid?

       All I know for sure is that Billy Lado and Billy Blackburn, if you're out there reading this, you owe me.  I don't want the coloring book replaced or the football back.  I just want to know that you guys turned out okay.  That you had good lives.  That if you got married, you treated your wives right and raised good families.  Maybe you started calling yourselves Bill or William and you were kind and generous to others.  I want to know that people can change for the better.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What's Happening Today and Tomorrow

         If you've not yet heard the exciting news, there are at least two books (that I know of so far) that have been inspired by the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge of 2011.   The authors of these books will be my guests here on Tossing It Out in weeks to come.  I hope you will join us here when they visit.  But even more I hope you will support these authors by buying their books.  Maybe you too will become inspired!

A to Z Stories of Life and Death


        The blogger who we know as Damyanti of Daily (w)rite has released her collection of stories that were inspired by the A to Z Challenge.   Published as an ebook, A to Z Stories of Life and Death is now available for a very affordable $1.99 at Smashwords.  The book is also available on Kindle.  I encourage all of you to support Damyanti in her ebook publishing experiment and subscribe to her blog so you can follow her progress.   Much of our success--yours and mine--is dependent on the success of authors like Damyanti.  Please spread the word and get this wonderful collection of stories into the hands of readers everywhere.

 Damyanti is scheduled to be my guest on Wednesday September 14.

Home Sweet Nursing Home

       Doris Plaster is the blogger whose blog is "Hold My Hand" A social worker's blog.  If you are not familiar with Doris I encourage you to check out her blog and become a follower.  She writes heartwarming and relevant stories based on her actual experiences as a social worker.  I also encourage you to purchase a copy of her book Home Sweet Nursing Home which is a collection of stories from her participation in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge of 2011.

 I have a guest post from Doris scheduled for Wednesday August 31.

Remember--You May Be Next!
      If you can, try to support your fellow authors.   Many of us have books out there for sale now or will have them available soon.  If you're looking for a gift for the person who likes to read, make sure you consider the books by your blogging friends first.  

        Also, you can fill some blog space by letting your readers know about upcoming releases or the books that are already out there.  I probably don't have to tell any of you this, but I thought I'd remind you.  When we don't have the advertising dollars of the big publishing companies we have to rely on each other.

        It's kind of cool when someone you know achieves some level of success, especially when you've had a hand in helping them get where they are.   We are like a family; we are a community.  I want to see all of us attain success in our writing endeavors.  You can start by ordering the books that I've featured in today's post.   You will be sharing in all of our success!

       Has anyone read either of these books yet?  Has anyone else put together something resulting from the A to Z Challenge?   Or do you know anyone else who has?    


Monday, August 15, 2011

Facebook Fans and Friends

Facebook campaign

   I was so excited to receive the following in my comment section of a recent post:
Anonymous has left a new comment:  buy cheap facebook fans buy facebook fans cheap buy facebook likes
buy targeted facebook likes facebook likes buy how to buy facebook likes
buy cheap facebook fans buy guaranteed facebook fans buy targeted facebook likes _________________ buy likes on facebook guaranteed facebook fans buy guaranteed facebook fans buy facebook fans cheap 
     I no longer have to work at making friends or earning fans.   Now I can buy them.  And I can buy them cheap.   I can pay to get people to like me on Facebook. What's more, these fans are guaranteed.  Wow!  If this is true I can probably buy followers and friends for my blog.

    We've all heard the old saying about how money can't buy friendship, but now we know that money can buy friends--guaranteed friends.  Cheap friends.  Friends that will like me because I paid for them to like me.

     A mere $654.30 will buy you 5000 Facebook friends.  Or for just $1167.30 you can get a whopping 10,000 friends.  This is according to an article from Business Insider.  I'd been seeing these "buy fans" ads on all of our blogs.  I know you've seen them too.  How could you not?  I became curious about this rather odd phenomenon and decided to search Google to see what this was all about.  There it was--several stories about the nutty concept and actual sites dedicated to selling "friends".

     Here I've been going to all this effort of networking and commenting on blogs.  I've been wasting my time I guess.  I could have just shelled out the bucks and built a huge blog following in no time.  And they would have been cheap, guaranteed friends.

      I wonder if they would have been guaranteed to read my blog posts and leave comments.  And I don't mean cheap comments.  Maybe I'd have to pay extra for that.

       Have you ever wondered about these ads?  Do you know anything about why people would do this?  Do you know anybody who has done it?   Do you have any cheap friends?


Friday, August 12, 2011

Cowboys and Indians

Cowboy & Indian Playset per Dozen - Click Image to Close
Image credit

        Hopalong Cassidy was all the rage when I was born.  He'd been all the rage as a cowboy hero for years and smart marketing had Hoppy's licensed products all over the place.  The Hopalong Cassidy television show was on the air from the time I was an infant until I was about four or five years old.  Even then I thought he was a rather peculiar cowboy star, but adults seemed to think kids should like him so I guess we did--kind of.

        Cowboy and Indian movies had been around since the earliest days of film-making.  My father had grown up with them.  They were still quite popular in the 50s, but science fiction and war movies were starting to become more ensconced in the cinematic hearts of young American boys.  I preferred the uncertain threats suggested by the sci-fi genre, but I still loved a good Western.

          Some of my favorite toys included the plastic little men that usually came in the form of soldiers or cowboys and Indians.  The army men were always a drab green color.  They often came with nifty green colored accessories like guns, artillery, and vehicles.  For some strange reason the bags of cowboys and Indians were brightly multicolored red, yellow, blue, and other colors.  Oddly the horses were in the more natural colors of white, black, and brown.  I could never figure out why those little men had to be so colorful, but that's they way it was and we just had to accept it.

           The little figures came in assorted poses that represented cliches that met the expectations that we had developed after watching countless Western films.  The Indians always included the archer on one knee poised with an arrow in a drawn bow, the wild running brave with tomahawk in the air, the warrior with knife ready for attack, and the noble chief holding a lance.  Most of the tiny faces looked fierce and intimidating.   The cowboys' faces were stern and stoic.   They usually stood in various stances of gun readiness.  Both groups had riders that could be mounted on horseback.  It was a cast of characters that was perfect for directing my own cowboy and Indian spectacle.

          Sometimes my little men clashed in battle.  I simulated gunfire and ricocheted bullets with weird little kid mouth sounds.  Tiny bodies fell from furniture that stood in for high cliffs and buildings.  Riders tumbled from horses.  Figures fought in hand to hand combat as I deftly maneuvered the little bodies to create blows with arms that were locked into permanent poses.  My imaginary Westerns had some violence, but they often had something that most kids' play did not have--circus.

          Circus and show business were an integral part of my life when I was growing up.  If there had been toy sets that consisted of miniature jugglers, clowns, and acrobats I would have probably had those, but since there were not I had army men and cowboys and Indians.   Army men did not seem to fit well into the circus, but I could easily create my own tiny circus with a Wild West Show theme.

           My miniature show had trained horses from the Western toy sets and some other animals from a safari set that I had acquired somewhere along the way.  The circus owner and the hero of my playtime movie stories was a little man dressed in safari clothes.  His greatest distinctions were that he was made out of black plastic (I had never seen a little man made of black plastic) and he had a missing arm.  It looked almost as though the arm had been chewed off, but I had no recollection of how he lost the arm.   Then again I don't even remember where the man came from.

           There was something rugged and heroic about the little black man with the missing arm.  I imagined that he had been a famous lion tamer who had lost his arm to one of the big cats.   Even with one arm missing he was tough and commanded respect.  No one dared to go up against the lion tamer turned circus owner.  He did not see a missing arm so much as a handicap as much as a minor inconvenience.

           One of the Western sets had included a cowgirl so she became the love interest of the one armed circus owner.  There was only one cowgirl in my toy collection so she was naturally the sweetheart of the only hero.  My hero had a few sidekicks and pals, but most of the cowboys and Indians were just movie extras on the imaginary set of my imaginary Western.

           I no longer remember the stories.   They lasted from day to day over a time span now forgotten.  The men, the animals, and the set pieces have long vanished to unknown places and reside only vaguely in my memory now clouded by the passing of the decades.  Only dust lingers from the parade of circus wagons that have long disappeared over a distant horizon toward a soft sepia sunset.
   Do you have any special playtime memories or toys that were especially significant to you?  Did you put stories to your playtime and did they continue from day to day?   How have the imaginary stories of your childhood play affected you to this day?

  And now a "Theme from an Imaginary Western":

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life is Too Short – How the Heck Did I End Up Here?

       The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is full of surprises.   One of the more pleasant surprises that came my way in the 2011 Challenge was finding the blog of San at Informed Sharing.  I don't even recall how I found her post about me, but there it was making me blush and feel kind of proud at the same time. 

        San had joined in the Challenge when it was too late to get her link on the list, but that didn't stop her.  She went all out posting A to Z topics daily and praising the blog talents of the other participants.  In fact, helping others is one of San's specialties.  And sharing what she knows is the subject matter of her wonderful blog.

       But enough from me.  San is my special guest today and I'm going to turn my blog over to her so she can tell her own story.  

Whew. How the heck did I end up here?

        A few weeks ago, Lee asked me to guest post here at Tossing it Out. I was thrilled, humbled, and quite honestly chagrined. I wrote him back and told him that I certainly didn’t deserve this honor based upon several things – including my erratic blogging habits over the last couple of months.

       Oh, and you know Lee, he pooh-poohed that and convinced me otherwise and so here I am. Guest posting at Tossing it Out.


       I’ll get to the meat of my post in a minute but let me first tell you how I met Lee. Arlee Bird is the co-founder of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. You all know that, and many of you participate, I imagine. I certainly did so, this year – blogging from A – Z, every day of the month of April (except for Sundays). My A – Z consisted of highlighting other A to Z bloggers that I happened to stumble upon from the fabulous list of people who signed up.

      WOWZA, that was FUN! I got to meet and discover a whole big world of blogging that I never imagined (in a trillion years or so…). Meeting new friends and getting a glimpse of their little piece of the (blogging) world was only one of my favorite parts of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.

And I wasn’t even officially signed up.

       That’s right. I didn’t sign up for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge of 2011; but I did it anyway. And boy oh boy, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t officially signed up. Those sweet, kind, wonderful bloggers involved in the challenge just swooped me up and took me in without question.

How darn lucky am I? 

       My blog, Informed Sharing, was only two days old when I unofficially began blogging my way through the alphabet. Oh, I’d been blogging for years at this point; but I started Informed Sharing as a way of showcasing writers around the web that would help my readers become better informed about life and how to live it healthy: mind, body, and spirit.

       Whether I am sharing other bloggers, writer friends from one of the sites that I occasionally pen pieces for, or a video that I just couldn’t pass up, I want Informed Sharing to be a comfy place where anyone can come, kick off their shoes, and stay awhile – and learn a thing or two, too!

       But alas, as April rolled into May and then summer flew in, I became caught up in other things and my blog has taken a bit of a backseat to this thing we call life. This brings me back to why I didn’t believe I deserved to be honored with a guest post at Lee’s place.

       And, of course, how the heck I ended up here. I am tickled pink to be sharing a bit of me with you. I want to leave you now with a few things – the meat of my post – you need to know (informed sharing, if you will…).
Life is Too Short – live each day to the fullest and do not regret the steps you take to get where you wish to be.

How did I end up here? Live your life full of passion for whatever it is you wish to do and you cannot fail.

Bottom line your goals – discovering how to take care of yourself – mind, body, and spirit – will enable you to share the triumphs, learn from the disappointments, and leave a legacy true to who you are.

        Quite recently (and due to family stuff too difficult to share here) I sat down and took a good long look at what my end goals were. I like to write, I want to write, I AM a writer. But where, how, when, and with what platform do I wish to share my voice?  Coupled with the invitation to guest post at Tossing it Out, I came to the realization that blogging (and vlogging on YouTube) is where I want to be.

(Please note: the above paragraph doesn’t begin to tell you the scattered pieces of my mind in regard to discovering who I am as a whole…just go with it for now.)

So what does that mean and why does it matter for you?

       Well, just this: I have rediscovered my excitement from the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge of 2011. I want to blog. Daily. And I want to share. Daily. So that you are all better informed about stuff you need to know. Whatever STUFF, which might help you live better.

      No more rattling around, overwhelmed and stretched too thin with this online writing/vlogging career that has chosen me. 

      If you’ve made it this far, I thank you. And I guarantee that you will be seeing much more of me at Informed Sharing – sharing me, you, them, her, him, and US – so that we all may live healthy: mind, body, and spirit.

      Oh, and yessiree bob! You’ll also see me next year at the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2012 edition – sharing new friends and old as I wander through the alphabet once more – officially, of course!

     Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you soon!

       Come hang out at Informed Sharing and discover more of my brilliant madness! The last year of my life has been spent thoroughly ensconced with the ins and outs of online writing and I would love to help you find YOUR voice!

      If sometimes you want to HEAR what I’m saying, rather then read it, visit Ask San Anything at YouTube and join in the (marginally controlled) chaos there.


** Special thanks once more to Lee for inviting me over. You really are amazing, my blogging friend! **

      And thank you, San, for stopping by today to share with us.  I encourage all readers to stop by San's blog to check it out and while you are there join her site so you won't miss any future posts.


Monday, August 8, 2011

My Favorite Westerns

        Not to be outdone by my cowpoke pal Stephen T. McCarthy, who posted his Fifteen Favorite Westerns a while back, I decided to put up my own list of favorite westerns .   Okay,  so he will probably outdo me on this one--after all he's apparently a bigger western fan than I am.  Besides he and a co-author, Calamity Cat wrote a book on the subject and the most I ever did was played with plastic cowboys and Indians when I was a kid.

         At first, due to what I thought was my limited experience with Westerns, I thought I'd only do my ten favorites.  Then, as I began compiling my list, I realized there were a lot of Western films that I really liked and I would have to take several off of my list in order to keep it at Stephen's original limitation of fifteen films.  So to keep the list manageable I'm only including one Clint Eastwood film (I could have taken up at least a third of the list with his films).

         If you're wondering about John Wayne films, I'll have to admit that I'm not a big fan so you'll find only one of his films here.  I'm going with films that really touched me in some way or another or have a particular significance to my experience as a film fan.  And finally, not that these films are not special to me, but I have omitted some of what may seem to be obvious classics such as High Noon, Shane, or Stagecoach.

        Fifteen Favorite Westerns:

      Shanghai Noon (2000)  --Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson star in this buddy comedy kung fu cowboy film.  It's wacky fun with plenty of action.   And there are trains. I love western films that have trains.

A Man Called Horse (1970) -- Richard Harris is an English aristocrat who gets captured by American Indians in 1825.  At first he is treated cruelly, but eventually proves his bravery and becomes part of the tribe.  This was probably a film that was partly made as a reaction to the Viet Nam era, but it still holds up as a darn good story.  This film was a favorite of mine and my friends after we saw it at the drive-in movie.  We all had fantasies of becoming Indians and having beautiful Indian maidens of our own.

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) -- Humphrey Bogart stars in this more modern day Western.  The story takes place in 1925, but is replete with banditos on horseback, rugged scenery, and blazing gun battles.  Three Americans in Mexico take off into the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico in search of gold.  Along with gold, they find trouble fueled by greed.   A gritty tale befitting of Bogie's image.

7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) -- In this Western Fantasy mash up, Tony Randall plays multiple characters including the mysterious circus owner Dr. Lao.  The odd little circus comes to the desolate town of Abalone, Arizona.  When the circus comes to town the citizens are given insight as to who they really are as reflected by the  changing faces of the wise, but eccentric Dr. Lao.  A big plus for me is that the film is not only about the circus, but also prominently features juggling.   Gotta love a film that has juggling.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) -- This is a slow, brooding, but highly compelling story about the notorious outlaw Jesse James and the gang member who gains his fifteen minutes of fame by shooting Jesse in the back.   This is a beautiful film in every way.  The cinematography is pure artwork, the music is haunting, and the acting is of the highest caliber.  It's a traditional western story told in an unconventional manner.

Lone Star (1996) -- This is a modern day story in the Western tradition.  After a skeleton is unearthed in the desert, the sheriff of a small town in Texas investigates to unravel the mystery.  He uncovers more secrets in the mystery than he bargains for as he digs up the skeletons in his own closet and those of the town itself.  This film is directed by one of my favorite directors, John Sayles, which is another big factor in my inclusion of Lone Star on this list.

The Misfits (1961) -- If nothing else, this film is notable because it was the last film made by both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe.  This is another modern day Western story about horse wranglers and rodeo cowboys. It's a good story with top notch acting.  Not a shoot 'em up, but it's a bang of job of film making.

Back to the Future III (1990) -- Take my favorite genre of time travel and send it to the Wild West and I am definitely on board.   Add that to a great film franchise like Back to the Future and it's hard to go wrong.  There's cowboys and outlaws and trains.  And then there's that great scene of the souped-up DeLorean being chased by Indians on horseback.  This is some fun stuff.

The Searchers (1956) --There are several good John Wayne films and this is one of the best.  I'm no huge John Wayne fan--I almost find him annoying at times (gasp!  How un-American for me to say!).  This film falls into another one of my favorite story genres--the road trip.  As implied by the title, the story involves a search.  That search takes a great cast of characters through some great adventures in some magnificent scenery.  Just about everything a good Western should be is in this film.

All the Pretty Horses (2000)-- This is another film involving a journey.  It's 1949.  Two young cowboys in West Texas realize that the great era of the American cowboy is essentially over and head across the border to Mexico in search of adventure and jobs on a big ranch.  The film stars Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, and Penelope Cruz and is directed by Billy Bob Thornton.  I included this since it is a beautiful Western and it's based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, one of my favorite authors.  His novel No Country For Old Men is a better film and could also be classified as a Western I'd say, but All the Pretty Horses fits the Western theme better for the purposes of this list.

Oklahoma (1955)-- I'm sure I'll get some disagreement about this one, but it's the Western themed musical with which I am most familiar. I know there are other Western musicals but I don't remember them very well.   Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote this musical and the songs are classics that we've all heard.  The performances are dynamite.  There's love, action, and good singin' and dancin'.  The dream ballet sequence is pure dance magic.  This is a film that I have watched many times.

McKenna's Gold (1969) -- This is a sentimental favorite for me.  I saw it at the drive-in movies when it first came out and have seen it many times since.  I never grow tired of watching this film.  It has a massive all-star cast headed up by Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif, and Telly Savalas.   This is yet another journey film with treasure seekers in search of a cache of gold in the mountains.  There are bad guys, good guys, more bad guys, and pissed off Indians all adding up to one rip-roaring adventure.

Tombstone (1993)-- There have been many renditions of the gunfight at the OK Corral.  This version is  one of the grandest.  The film is visually stunning and an A-list of actors is on board.  I especially like the depth to which the history of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday is explored.  We see the story before Tombstone and the aftermath as we follow Wyatt Earp to his last days.  The movie is good story telling.

The Wild Bunch (1969)--One of the most violent Westerns of all is also one of the best.  The film has a great cast and is just an all around good film.  There are trains, explosions, gunfights, and a machine gun which makes for a really good gunfight.  You gotta love any Western that has a machine gun.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)--  If Apocalypse Now is my favorite film then The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly would have to be my favorite Western since in my opinion it is the Apocalypse Now of Westerns.  They are both bizarre hallucinogenic excursions into surrealism where travelers encounter one weird event after another including a Civil War battle.  The characters in this spaghetti Western are played by an excellent cast with Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef heading up the list.  The theme music by Ennio Morricone has become classic.   This film is not only one of the best Westerns in my opinion, but it is among the best films ever made.

           There you have it.  Perhaps this should have been a blogfest.  In fact maybe this is a blogfest in slow motion since Stephen McCarthy's original entry first appeared nearly a year ago.  It took me a while to get my list together.  If you want to be a part of this, I hope you won't wait until next August to list your favorites.  If you do put up a list please let Stephen and me know about it so we can check it out.

           Do you like Westerns?    Would any of my favorites show up on your list?   Do you think any of my choices seem kind of peculiar?
           Please be sure to be here on Wednesday with my very special guest, San from Informed Sharing.  She has a story that you may find interesting.

          On Friday I will have a quirky little tale about cowboys and Indians.