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RandiLynnMrvos



May 1, 2020



ONE COMPUTER-LOVING CAT 


Ozzie is one unhappy kitty when he can't get online.  But this has not always been the case. 
Ozzie giving me that look

Years ago, I tried to entertain him by finding YouTube videos of singing birds, but he could have cared less.  He preferred to sit at the kitchen door and watch the birds feeding on our deck.  But lately, he's had a change of heart.  I found a video of birds eating seeds in a forest and now he can't get enough of it.  Which is a little problem because I need to be online to do writing, marketing and consulting.  And with COVID-19, I am on the computer even more taking French classes and a ballet barre.

Since I can't be in a classroom, I now use Zoom, a video-conferencing service where I can meet my teacher and classmates online.  Classes feel different, but hey, we are still learning and interacting.  My Zoom French class is structured just as we would as if we were at the Carnegie Center.  We chat about what we did over the weekend and then they we dive into a grammar lesson.

For my French reading class, six of us meet with our teacher on Zoom and cover two chapters of Petit Nicolas*.  We talk about the grammar and vocabulary and discuss the plot of the story.  In the semi-private class, we work on speaking and comprehension.

So, I do three French classes a week on Zoom, plus a ballet class.  Luckily, I have a place in the house where I can move furniture aside and follow along with the teacher to do a 50-minute barre and a 10-minute center adagio.
Plié, plié, rélevé

But my class time and work schedule eat into Ozzie's entertainment.  How do I know?

He cries when he sees me sitting at the computer.  He puts his paw on my lap, meows, and looks at me imploringly.  He wants me get off the computer.  It's like he's saying, "Scooch over.  Can't you see it's my turn?"

These days Ozzie likes the YouTube videos more than watching the birds that feed in our backyard.  Maybe he thinks the birds on the website are really real.  One time when a bird flew away from the seeds, Ozzie leaped to the back of the screen, thinking it had landed there.

Ozzie even likes to watch my ballet class.

I have created a monster.  When he watches, it's like he's in a trance.  Totally engaged and mesmerized.  Which on a positive note keeps him out of trouble, like trying to tear the screen door to get outside.

BIRDS!

I'm trying to figure out how to share the computer with Ozzie.  I'm basically a computer hog.  I've got to be online for my classes and allow more time for writing.

So, we have to find a way to compromise.  Ozzie could watch when I go out for a walk, but that happens to be his nap time.  So, the best time for him to have the computer to himself is when I have dinner and when I watch the nightly news.  He gets at least two hours of uninterrupted bird time.

This time slot seems to be working and Ozzie is entertained.  It's like I get the day shift and he has the evening shift.  We found a way to share.  And as long as he doesn't get frustrated trying to catch the seed-pecking birds, my YouTube watching cat is purrty darn happy.

À la prochaine! 

*Petit Nicolas, a hilarious book series written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Jean-Jaques Sempé, is about a young French boy and his friends and family.









April 1, 2020


THE GIFT

It's easy to take reading for granted.  I don't think twice about reading a novel, the newspaper, text messages and emails.  But every so often...I am reminded of the gift of being able to read.

Just recently, I discovered a short story about an illiterate elderly woman who longed to have someone teach her how to read before she died.  This story reminded me of a person I once knew.

When I was in my late twenties I dated Jay, a young man from southern Kentucky.  Jay and I used to go out for dinner and to the movies.  During the times we went out, I never noticed that he always ordered the same thing I ordered.  He used to ask, "What sounds good to you?" or "What are going to have?  

These clues never registered with me.  

And this behavior went on for several months until we went to see a movie.  I thought he'd like a war film, so I suggested the movie Das Boot, a gripping movie which follows the lives of a fearless U-Boat captain and his inexperienced crew as they patrol the Atlantic and Mediterranean in search of Allied vessels.  

Since the actors spoke in German, the movie had subtitles.


Afterward, I asked Jay if he liked the film.  That's when he fessed up.  He told me he could not read. 
I was shocked and then felt terrible that he sat through a movie unable to grasp what was happening.  

Jay hid his illiteracy well.  He certainly fooled me.  When we talked about it, he told me his teachers just passed him on to the next grade.  He also told me about the serious setbacks and financial problems he faced because he was illiterate.  In fact, he told me that he could not read the important documents needed to run his auto repair shop and consequently, an employee swindled money from his business.


Jay is not alone.

As reported by Literacy Works (www.litworks.org), more than 30 million adults in the United States are at or below the third-grade level in reading, writing, and math.  

An article published by the Huffington Post on November 27, 2017 states "according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. The current literacy rate isn't any better than it was 10 years ago."

The consequences of illiteracy are far-reaching.  According to the Literacy Foundation, the illiterate face unemployment and lower income.  They have lower-quality jobs and a reduced access to lifelong learning and professional development.  They have more workplace accidents.  And, they face health risks because they are likely to misuse medication due to having trouble understanding the dosage and the warnings.  

From time to time I wonder about Jay and about the challenges he may face. Then surprisingly, we ran into each other many years later.  He happened to be at a small social gathering sponsored by my daughter's school.  Jay was dating a nice woman and he seemed happy and healthy.  Of course, I didn't ask, but I'd like to believe he learned to read.

World Book Day will be celebrated on April 23.  And I will think of Jay.  He affected me in a profound way.  Having known someone who could not read was something I never thought I'd encounter.  Having known Jay reminds me of the importance of reading.

Being able to read is powerful.  Reading affects your daily life and future.  It entertains and informs, increases vocabulary, and improves memory.  It enhances your imagination.  It can lift your spirits, relieve stress, and brighten your day.  

To paraphrase author Kate DiCamillo, reading should not be presented as a chore or duty, but offered as a precious treasure.  

I couldn't have said it better.  Reading is a gift that should never be taken for granted. 
À la prochaine! 

Here's where you can borrow books from the National Emergency Library:   https://archive.org/details/nationalemergencylibrary









March 1, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Photo: Geran de Klerk 
BY CHANCE

Sometimes when we least expect it, the events of the day put us on a path of destiny.

A while back, I made plans to stop at the library just long enough to pick up a book when I spotted a friend whom I hadn't seen in years.

Most of us have probably run into friends and acquaintances by chance, but this meeting was different.

That day, I didn't expect to see someone who had worked in the same department at the hospital as I had some thirty years ago.  But there she was, on her way out of the library.  I called out her name.  She looked up and smiled.  After a hug, I asked her how she was doing.  Without a trace of emotion, she told me she was dying.

I was shocked, not only to learn of her predicament but that she seemed indifferent.  Or, was it she had come to accept her fate?  After she explained the details of her prognosis, I wondered:  why did we meet on this day, at this place, at this exact time?  Was there a purpose to this reunion?

At the time, I didn't realize that this may be synchronicity at work, the meaningful coincidences that play a role in our lives.

Author and public speaker Deepak Chopra defines synchronicity as an unexpected coincidence that happens to break statistical probabilities.  It is a conspiracy of improbabilities.  He believes that synchronicity happens when improbable events come together and move you into an extended state of awareness and enhance your intuitive abilities. 

As Jan revealed more details of her condition, I didn't know what to say, but I felt an overwhelming sadness.  This emotional impact is part of synchronicity. 

Mark Holland, co-author of Synchronicity says, "The primary reality of synchronicities is emotional, not intellectual."  He believes that the reason they’re there is to make us feel something and to show that our lives are rich and worth reflecting upon.   

I think back to the time when Jan and I were young medical technologists.  Jan liked to talk about the three rabbits she owned as pets.  She loved those rabbits and they were like family to her.

One time, Jan came by the house with a rabbit so that our young daughter could play with it.  Not long after that 'play date,' I retired from the working at the hospital.  That was the last time I saw her.  Happy bunny memories.  And now this.

Photo: James Wheeler 
You might believe the reunion with Jan was merely a coincidence, unless you look deeper and see the event as valuable and potentially instructive.

In Psychology Today, former Cincinnati reporter Gregg Levoy says Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, "believed that synchronicities mirror deep psychological processes, carry messages the way dreams do, and take on meaning and provide guidance to the degree they correspond to emotional states and inner experiences.

One only had to look at a recent event in my past to understand a possible meaning as to why I ran into Jan.

I understood the illness.

About two years earlier, my sister-in-law Barb died of a brain tumor, a glioblastoma—the same diagnosis as Jan's.  My husband and I became Barb's caregivers from diagnosis to death.  Little by little, the cancer robbed her of doing daily tasks like getting dressed and using silverware.  It robbed her of vocabulary—her words came out as gibberish.  Perhaps the reason for running into Jan was that I had been called upon to be available if she needed help.

Jan's closest family lives 500 miles away.  So, I volunteered to give her with rides.  On one occasion, I drove her to a doctor's appointment.  When we arrived, Jan needed to fill out papers for insurance records. The complications of her illness affected her memory.  She had forgotten her house number, but I was able to remind her.  Then as she continued to fill out the form, she came across a place for her birth date.  She grinned at me and said she remembered.  April 16th.

Jan was born on the same day as my father.

While there is no evidence that synchronicity exists, there are amazing coincidences that happen all the time.  Are they the result of random chance?  Or, do they convey some hidden meaning?  Only you can decide.

More questions ran through my mind.  Why did I run into Jan now instead of years earlier?  Why was it me instead of another co-worker?  If I had run an errand before going to the library, we would have never met.  How could it be that the timing was so perfect?

Of course, I will never know the answers.  But I believe there has to be a reason and it makes me wonder and reflect.  How can this not be a meaningful coincidence?  How can this not be destiny?  How can this not be meant to be?

À la prochaine! 
















February 1, 2020

Photo: Jewish Women's Archive* 
Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer   
I AM NOT LIKE MRS. MAISEL

My husband and I binge-watched the third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  We love this Emmy-winning American period comedy-drama starring Rachel Brosnahan so much that we watched it with captions—we didn't want to miss a single word or joke.

The premise in a nutshell:  Mrs. Maisel has everything she's ever dreamed of—a perfect husband, two kids and an exquisite apartment on New York's Upper West Side, but when her husband leaves her for another woman, she unwittingly discovers she has a talent for stand-up comedy.  

I've seen the first and second seasons multiple times, and it got me thinking how different I am from Miriam as she is called by her parents or Midge as she is known by her friends and ex-husband.  Though I don't make a regular habit of comparing myself to television characters, I thought it would be interesting to note the differences.  Here are some observations.

Unlike Midge:
  • I do not wear gorgeous high-end vintage-inspired dresses.
  • I do not wear hats, shoes and gloves that coordinate with the gorgeous high-end vintage-inspired dresses. 
  • I would never be able to afford the hats, shoes, and gloves that coordinate with the gorgeous high-end vintage-inspired dresses.  
  • I have never invited a rabbi to the house; a priest yes, but not a rabbi.
  • I've never done stand-up comedy, but my husband says I'm funnier than most of my family.
  • I've never bleached my hair (or my nether regions).
  • I've never said the word penis in front of my father.
  • My mother never went to a fortune-teller (she could have, but she never told me).
  • Photo: Amazon Prime 
  • Our family had a housekeeper, but she never made goulash.
  • I've never eaten mac and cheese as a hangover cure.
  • I've never made a brisket or bribed anyone with a brisket.
  • I've never attended a bris, a ceremony for Jewish boys like Bar Mitzvahs, except much more painful. 
  • I've never sailed on a yacht sipping champagne (and I have no regrets because I would have been greener than the Grinch).
  • I never had a picture of the Dionne quintuplets hanging on a wall in my bedroom.  Not that I would want one and thank goodness I didn't because I wasn't allowed to hang any pictures on the walls of my bedroom.  (So, you can imagine what my college dorm room looked like.  Every wall was plastered with posters—but not a single picture of the Dionne quintuplets).  
There you have it.  Fourteen differences.  But for the hell of it, let's move on to comparisons.  There are only two, maybe three.   

  • During my teenage years, I pushed a boy out my bedroom window after a late-night tryst. 
  • Like Midge, I've been on television.  I was on T Bar B, a children's show where kids had the opportunity to announce their name and age, sing the happy birthday song, and have cake.  Well, everyone had cake but me.  I was yanked away before having a single taste.  (I don't think it would have spoiled my dinner.  And yes, I'm still a little bitter).
  • Midge dated Benjamin, a tall, nice-looking Jewish doctor.  I dated two med students, who I assume would become doctors.  And then again as I think about it, this might not belong with the comparisons.  Neither of them 'looked like an angry building' when they got mad—which was what Benjamin told Midge when describing what tall people look like when they get upset.  

Maybe in season four, I will find more similarities with Midge, but there will likely be more differences.  Way more differences.  Either way, I'll have to wait another year.  So until then, you can bet that my husband and I will watch the third season again as well as the first and second seasons.  We will still laugh at the delicious dialogues.  We will still repeat the lines—"I will have to kill you.  I'll feel bad about it, but I'll have to do it." "Tits up." "At least we're not as fucked as those fucking fucks."  

And...we will still savor The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. 


À la prochaine! 


Jewish Women's Archive. "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." (Viewed on December 15, 2019) <https://jwa.org/media/marvelous-mrs-maisel>.






January 1, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                  Photo: Vitaly Taranov 
Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer   INSPIRING OR SHAMING? 

How is it possible that a Facebook post could make me say WTF?

Over the Christmas holidays, I was tagged (as well as fifty others) on Facebook in a plea to contribute to a charity.  This may be a common thing to do, but I was shocked.  It was probably an innocent act and others would think nothing of this, but it made me wonder why someone would list names in conjunction with a fundraiser.  Maybe the purpose was to inspire people to donate or make it easier for them to donate, but it made me feel uncomfortable.  Again, I will reiterate that it probably wasn't meant to be malicious; and yet in some way, it felt like shaming people into giving.

Charity shaming is used to pressure a person into donating to a cause that one has personally deemed worthy.  It generally has a negative affect and it can be counter-productive.  Thankfully, I don't see this kind of intimidation on social media too often.

Facebook is a friend network.  Most of the time, people use it to socialize.  But not everyone uses it strictly for keeping in touch or reconnecting with long-lost friends.

Many of my friends and family use Facebook as a fundraising platform.  They ask for a donation in lieu of birthday gifts or for an organization that they support.  In fact, my peeps post fundraising events multiple times a year.  My husband and I notice the appeals and we contribute generously, mainly because we believe in the causes and we don't feel bullied into donating. 
Photo: Wei Ding 

Nobody wants to be hassled or embarrassed into giving to a charity.  People want the freedom to choose.  And, people are more likely to give to a cause if it resonates with them and if they know how their donation will be spent.  For instance, one of the organizations that I contribute to is the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.  I know the funds raised will benefit the programs that they offer.  But I would point out that the Carnegie Center does not post possible donor's names on Facebook.

Trying to bully somebody into donating to a cause is becoming more and more prevalent—it can backfire and turn people away from giving.  And that's sad because there are many wonderful charitable undertakings that depend on donations.  Championing a cause is admirable, but manipulating people is just plain wrong.

I get the feeling there's going to be more of this pushy in your face fundraising tactic throughout the new year.  Why?  It appears to work.  People who use this ploy seem to be wildly successful in raising money.  But it comes across as guilting people into opening their checkbooks.  Safe to say, this strategy is not for me.  I prefer a less forceful approach, a more considerate approach.  Because I believe giving should be a personal choice.

To my followers: 

Thank you for supporting 
Children's Writer's World and The Maggie Project.  
It truly means the world to me. 
May the new year bring you new inspirations, 
new goals, and new achievements.


https://thinksaveretire.com/charity-shaming-double-standard/

To leave a comment, please contact:  Randi Lynn Mrvos




December 1, 2019

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo: The Creative Exchange
   
Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer                                                                                                                                                                                                
DUSTING VS DECLUTTERING 

Man, oh man, do I ever hate household chores.  I don't mind vacuuming.  There's something satisfying about seeing lint and footprints disappear.  However, when it comes to dusting, I will put it off for as long as possible.  This is probably due to the fact that as a child, I was required to clean my room every day.  Okay, so it was necessary to earn my allowance, but let's get real.  Every day?  Dust does not accumulate that much every day.  In a week, maybe. 

Dusting is done when it gets to me or when we have company.  Since we don't have company often, I can put it off for quite a while.  It's only when dust settles on top of table tops and dressers so thickly I can write my name in it that I'll pull out the Pledge.

By now, you get the idea about my thoughts on dusting.  Perhaps Oscar Wilde said it best, "Man is made for something better than disturbing dirt."

On the other hand, I love to declutter.  Unlike dusting, which feels so futile and self-defeating, there's a sense of accomplishment with decluttering, a satisfying feeling that there is less junk in the house.  It imparts a sense of order.  And with decluttering, there is always the chance of finding a treasure.

Earlier this year while I was tidying up the kitchen, I did in fact find a treasure.  While cleaning out a drawer, I found a little book my daughter had made when she about the age of six.  Abby loved to tell jokes, so one day she wrote down her favorites and made a joke book.  She used to read them out loud to my husband and me and we would be thoroughly entertained.

After straightening up the drawer and throwing away pens that no longer worked, scraps of paper, and bent paper clips, I read what she had written.  The jokes were corny.  I remembered most of them and they still had me giggling.

Here are some of my favorites.  I hope they make you laugh out loud or bring a smile to your face.


And a few more:

I love these jokes...
and to think the little joke book would never have been found IF I HAD BEEN DUSTING!

It's been said that dusting is supposed to improve air quality.  So, the air quality in our house is probably not what it should be.  In my defense, I vacuum the house weekly and judging by the amount of dust that's sucked up, I'd say my house stays rather clean.

Given the choice between dusting and decluttering, you know which one I'd choose.  Decluttering has way more advantages.  It can improve concentration and lower stress levels.  It can boost your mood.  Decluttering can help you with your decision-making and problem-solving skills because you have so much stuff and you only have so much space to make everything fit, therefore you have to decide what to keep (and where to put it) and what to discard.  And best of all...it can lead you to treasures that you've forgotten that you have.

 
À la prochaine! 



November 1, 2019

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Photo: Gus Ruballo

Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer

A HUGE MISTAKE  

Many years ago when I was an aspiring writer, I made a mistake.  A huge mistake.  A costly mistake.  But first, the backstory:

Ever since I was a teen, I wanted to write, but my career path took a different direction and I became a medical technologist.  After graduating, I landed a good-paying job at the University of Kentucky Medical Center.  However, as the years rolled on, the work environment grew stressful due to downsizing and poor management.  Luckily, I was able to retire early. 

At that time, I decided to take a writing class.  My desire to write for kids had been simmering for quite some time as my husband read picture books to our young daughter.  But it wasn't because of the delightful stories that drew me to writing.  It was because of an unimaginative story he had read to her.  I wondered how it ever got published.  This sad little picture book pushed me to learn how to write for children.  If something like this could be published, then surely I could write a picture book.

So, I enrolled in a class at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning to discover how to write for kids.  Towards the end of the course, all of the participants had written a picture book manuscript.  Many of us hoped to get our work published.  As it was, I had already begun sending out my manuscript to publishing houses...and it was getting rejected time after time.

On the last day of class, our instructor had a surprise for us.  She invited a literary agent to speak to us.  This was an amazing opportunity.  The agent gave a brief lecture and then after a question and answer period, she handed out her business cards.

I wasted no time in contacting her and we arranged a time to get together.  A few weeks later, I drove about 30 miles from Lexington to her farmhouse in central Kentucky.  She served a light snack and then she discussed which agents she would contact and how she would present my book to them.  I was so ready to work with an agent and this was the ticket to getting published.  The timing seemed perfect to me.

But I was so naive.  This situation was all wrong because:

Just pretend this was me, shelling out beaucoup de money to an agent. 
Photo: Sharon McCutcheon
1.  I had given her my manuscript, actually the first draft, which was ridiculous 'cause the first draft of anything is pure sh*t.  The manuscript had not been revised nor had it been critiqued by a second reader.  As you can you imagine, this piece cried for help with character development, plot, word choice, voice, and page turns.

2.  I paid her a fee—a whopping three hundred dollars to be represented.  Ouch!  I took for it for granted that this was the way agents worked and that writers paid them upfront.

Since then, I've grown as a writer.  I took more classes, read books on the craft of writing for kids, and joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  And through SCBWI, I learned about the Association of Authors' Representatives.  Founded in 1991, the Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR) is a nonprofit membership organization which has more than 400 professional literary and dramatic agents as members.  Members must meet the AAR's minimum experience requirements and agree to adhere to its bylaws and the canon of ethics.  Agents do not charge a writer a flat fee for signing a contract—they are paid for their work through the commission they make when they sell a book.

Looking back to the time when I began seriously writing for children, I see a starry-eyed dreamer who made lots of mistakes because she desperately wanted to publish beautifully illustrated books for kids.  I'm still this starry-eyed dreamer, but a tad smarter.  Now, I do things differently.  Before querying an agent, I revise my manuscript countless times and I have a second reader critique the piece.  In addition, I shop around for reputable agents that represent picture books.   

I have no regrets about the blunders I made in regards to writing.  And no doubt I'll make more mistakes.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Mistakes can be great teachers.  We must recognize that as painful they may be, mistakes are part of any journey, part of anything we wish to excel at, and part of anything we wish achieve.  Mistakes have the power to turn us into something even better than we were before.  

"The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing." Henry Ford


À la prochaine! 
If you like, please leave a comment at: Rlmrvos@gmail.com

Comments:

Great article! But shame on your instructor for not checking out the agent she invited to class.
Why wouldn't a student trust someone who their teacher had invited? Harold U.