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Hangin’ Out

Book Lovers’ Fairs or Expos are great opportunities for networking in ‘author world,’ showcasing your  writing talents and generally, having a lot of fun.  Meeting fellow authors is a marvelous trip.  Most writer’s are unique in so many ways I truly appreciate.  Although I look forward to meeting and hanging out with a crazy, diverse bunch of writers, some of the moments I anticipate the most at a multiple-author, book event are spying the adorable, animated characters milling around and rushing to hang out with them.  They’re there to bolster the childrens’ books or advertise something out in town.  Either way, I’m thrilled to see them.  I’ve grown very respectful of mascots over the years.  They don’t talk, have a pleasant demeanor, a delighted, if not goofy, look on their face, transmit infectious energy and throw out happy waves to everyone.  They’re big and have even bigger heads, with shoes to match.  I get so excited to see them, I want to be them.  Yes, my mind has gone there.  The thought of becoming a big head with big shoes bounces in my brain quite often, but the dilemma is what head would I choose.  I’ve envisioned a Bluebird because they’re happy, have wings and uncommon as a mascot.  Bees are disappearing, so maybe I should be a honeybee to bring attention to their plight.  I’d still have wings, but I’d also be adorned with antennae and yellow is a good color for me.  I’ll think on that a while.  I guess my message to everyone with this little bloggie blurb is stay positive, have fun in whatever you do and respect the ‘clean’ fun others are having even if it’s not your cup of tea.   Book signings,  Literary Symposiums and Writer’s Workshops are on the schedule for me over the next six months, and I plan to have a huge amount of fun teaching or learning at all of them.  I just hope some big-headed mascots will be close by to hang out with.  Bye, Bye, now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THIS YEAR’S AUTHOR’S HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY BASKET AND GET ENTERED BY DECEMBER 10TH!

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Backyard Fatality

As much as I love nature and nature loves me, I can’t seem to escape the occasional backyard fatality.
Their hunt is aggressive but manners demure, it wasn’t a cat, that’s for sure.
Feline free roamers with pure criminal intent are not nature to me.
Wildlife has little defense against efficient sport killers as these.
With cats, death is usually quick and quietly carried away.
They leave no trace, there is nothing to know, no guilt to pay.
No . . . this was a hawk, Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s variety,
Who must also eat, so I reluctantly accept occasional loss and know it must be.
Nature circles where I live; my grounds, my mind, soul and in my heart.
Disjoined bed of feathers, tragic scenes such as these give way to guilt’s start.
Which to save . . . not for me nor others to say, it’s always nature’s way.
I try to keep them all safe with cover and food; the doves, cardinals, flickers, squirrels,
Wrens, bluejays, titmouse, robin, thrasher, chickadee, opossum and sparrows.
But there’ll come a day when one is not alert or fast enough to out sway,
And I shall gather up all that is left of one I encouraged to stay.
I’ll always love nature and nature will love me,
Just wish I could escape the tormenting backyard fatality.

 

by Linda Bergman-Althouse, author of “Save Them All

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THIS YEAR’S “AUTHORS HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY BASKET” AND GET ENTERED BY DECEMBER 10TH!

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LOOKING BACK

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It may sound odd but accurate to say, a gorilla changed my life. I find myself looking back quite often when I think about why I do what I do for animals and why I choose the topics I write about. Sometimes I’m asked those very questions at readings or book signings. My mind always goes to the same time and place; that warm, spring afternoon in Washington, DC more than twenty-five years ago when I shared meaningful moments with a massive, Silverback Gorilla. You must be thinking, “a gorilla . . . in DC?” No, there wasn’t anything “King Kong – Faye Ray” going on. I was at The National Zoo. Since childhood, everywhere splendid animals are I want to be. I had reached adulthood by then and was engaged in an activity seeking excitement, exhilaration and entertainment, all for me but found so much more that day; an enlightenment that changed my life forever. While walking a zoo path, I noticed a khaki, uniform shirt pushing a cart of vegetables and fruit toward a side door and realized I happened to reach the gorilla’s public viewing enclosure right about feeding time. I walked inside the visitors’ entrance and straight to the glass for an up close and personal look. Everything behind the glass was gray, expect for a few mountainous black gorillas. Although the enclosure was not esthetically appealing, it was probably easy to hose down. There were steps to different levels, resembling a theme park attraction, very Disney World or King’s Dominion like, which is far different from the tropical or subtropical forests of a gorilla’s homeland. The outside area, I remember, was more closely habitat related, although small. I don’t know what about me, since there were so many people there, caught a large Silverback’s attention, but he slowly knuckle-walked toward my way and sat down right in front of me. He remained quite still and my surroundings became quiet. We just looked at each other for the longest time, as though he was studying me just like I was studying him. Most wild animals don’t make eye contact with humans, it’s too confrontational. His gaze lingered on my face. He was magnificent and appeared gentle, although I was not naive to the ferocity a gorilla is capable of. I loved looking at him that close, but his speckled, brown eyes, although studious, seemed sad to me. They never turned away until the food was introduced through a gated window. (I’m happy to say, feeding time for wild animals in captivity has become a more enriching experience over the years than just plopping food in front of them.) Two gorillas quickly surrounded the pile and began to eat. My gorilla’s giant torso turned to look at the colorful food presented and then back to me for another minute or two. I cocked my head and gave him my best non-confrontational, Mona Lisa smile. He stood, towering over me, becoming a dark, massive wall. I moved back a step. He lifted his left hand and with gently curved fingers, his forefinger extended towards me, like he was pointing at me. I was stunned. He turned, and I watched him slowly head for the food. Only then do I remember hearing anything around me; the noise of the children and other visitors echoed in the vacuous round room. The Silverback selected his food carefully. He picked up cantaloupe, bananas and cucumbers, as well as a pile of greens that I’m not quite sure what to call. He held all the food in one arm close to his chest and climbed to the highest level in a corner of the display area, then turned his back to everyone to eat his lunch in peace and privacy. That’s the moment that sticks with me the most. I realized he wasn’t so different. I found myself grappling with the assessment of the truly higher order animal, whether it’s the one who chooses to cage other animals or those who are caged. Over the years and in light of the animal atrocities occurring worldwide, I’ve grown to justify the Zoo system’s existence because, at least, the animals are physically safe there. I still visit Zoos or Sanctuaries and love seeing the animals, but my main focus now is to ensure habitats are appropriate, animals look healthy and are well treated. If not, I move to action. Looking back is a good thing if it helps you look forward.

Happy Easter Everyone and have a Gorilla of a Special Day!!

Linda Bergman-Althouse

Wildlife Rehabilitator and

author of “Save Them All

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Word Power

When Jim asked his wife, Virginia, what she wanted for Christmas last year, she said a Chimney Swift Tower. The requested gift was not the type of thing a woman can wear on her finger or dangle from her earlobes and definitely not easily shown to friends at lunch, but she had read in the Jacksonville Daily News that Chimney Swift habitat was declining in our area due to the capping of chimneys, loss of tree cavities and new construction methods. Virginia has always been impressed with the benefits Chimney Swifts, who are insectivores, offer our environment and mulled over the information contained in the Letter to the Editor (Linda Bergman-Althouse) wrote long enough to feel compelled to do something about it. Jim and Virginia share a waterway enjoyed by an array of wildlife. For many years, the nature loving couple has continued to supplement wild birds’ diets and provide condos or gourds for Purple Martins when nesting time rolls around each spring. After going on the Internet and downloading schematics for a tower and an acceptable materials list from http://www.chimneyswifts.org, Jim recruited another builder to help him construct the tower. “It took a few weeks or more to complete the twelve-foot tower, due to waiting out wet weather conditions and allotting time for the concrete to thoroughly set up,” Jim told me when he called. Although I hoped when putting out the word that chimney swifts were in need of alternate habitat to encourage them to return to our area, many months ago, I had no idea anyone had taken the “verbal” yellow flag and thrown it down. Jim invited me to Sneads Ferry to take a look at the tower he built for Virginia (and the Chimney Swifts, of course). My husband and I jumped in the car that day and within twenty five minutes I was absolutely thrilled to be standing next to a swift tower I had only dreamed someone would care enough to ask about, let alone build on their own. Jim sounded confident and proud when he said he “reinforced everything to ensure it will withstand hurricane force winds.” He dug a foundation platform so deep, he needed twenty bags of cement to fill it. Angled, iron girders (wider than the schematic called for) were set in place to form an extremely sturdy base.

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Finished this past week, the twelve-foot tall swift tower, which “Chimney Swifts like better than the eight-foot” according to something Jim read, stands waiting along Swan Point off Stump Sound in Sneads Ferry. So “yes, Virginia, we can honestly say there is a Santa Claus, well . . . a Santa’s helper, also known as your husband,” who made this special and most unique Christmas present, a Chimney Swift Tower, happen. Virginia can’t wait for the first migratory Chimney Swift couple to show up from South America’s Amazon Basin and check out their new digs. Although, the tower is large enough to house quite a number of roosting pairs of swifts, Virginia says she will be thrilled to see just one couple this year.

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Most stories have a moral–this one has a few, but the one I like most is: The little things we do can make a very big and positive difference. When your words mean so much to someone else, they take on power. You may or may not find out what effect or influence they’ve had, but just keep doing your part to make the world a better place and know others, like Jim and Virginia, will too.

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of, “Save Them All

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Valentine’s Day Humor Lost On Me

With so much loss and sadness as of late, let me add a little levity to our day, now that I can laugh about it. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I can’t help but reflect on a happening some years ago, when I was in my late twenties. I probably perceived some rather frivolous things more seriously than I should. I was working 12 to 16 hour days, six days a week in a building where the majority of the employees were male (probably 99 percent). I only knew of one other woman in the building. She was a married dispatcher in the police station downstairs. Even though the odds of dating were in my favor, it wasn’t happening. I worked way too many hours and really had no time for a social life. I was on great terms with everyone I worked with, so coming to work was quite enjoyable and laughter was an integral part of the office relationships even though every day was arduous for all and felt like each overlapped the next. Valentine’s Day was a few days away, and I overheard the guys talking about the flowers, dinners and such they were planning for their significant others, and sometimes they even asked me what a woman might like, which made me feel appreciated and very sisterish.

On Valentine’s Day, I approached the morning very low key and got busy with work immediately to distract myself, so I wouldn’t feel left out on “heart day.” Around noon one of the guys I worked with handed me a big card. I started blushing right away and (with red hair and an ivory face) it was very noticeable. The gesture was totally unexpected, so I was surprised, but I also felt relief wash over me when I took the card. I thought, how nice it was that he thought to give me a Valentine’s Day card. My giddiness nearly reverted to my eight-year-old self, when Ricky Wall gave me a purple, construction paper heart and a bag of butterscotch. When I opened the envelope, the picture on the card was very pretty; an arrangement of colorful flowers and on the heart in the center it said “Will You Be My . . . . . . . . , ” then I opened the card to read “Groundhog?” with a picture of a groundhog below the word.

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All the guys were standing around smiling, waiting for my reaction. I kept staring at the word groundhog and it felt like I had been standing there frozen in place for 10 minutes, when actually it was only a few seconds. My eyes started welling up, and I ran to the bathroom where I cried until my eyes swelled shut. I guess it was supposed to be a funny joke, but whether it was the stress of the job, the longing for a valentine of my own or maybe it was just that time of the month, I didn’t take it quite so funny. I put cold water on my face in an attempt to return my look to pre-humiliation, but red eyes and a puffy pink nose were evident when I returned to my desk, where dead silence hung heavy in the air and everybody, including me, looked like we needed rocks to crawl under. Then later that afternoon, the same guy, my supposed-to-be friend, walked up to my desk and placed a long white box in front of me. My body stiffened like setting concrete, wondering, what now, roadkill? He said, “Go ahead and open it, it’s safe.” When I lifted the lid, I found a dozen, bright and beautiful, red “mercy” roses, which caused me to cry again. He said he was “truly sorry about the card, it was only meant as a joke they really thought I would laugh over.” It was a very embarrassing Valentine’s Day for me. All I had hoped on that day was to not get noticed as ‘no one’s valentine,’ but my unexpected emotional reaction to their intended joke and the similar outburst during the follow-up apology effort are legendary and will hang in the hall of “My Worst (but only now funny) Valentines Days Ever.” Thanks readers, for letting me verbalize this and get it off my chest, as it has been a very heavy burden for many years. : ) Sounds very . . well almost, funny now – but it wasn’t so funny then. Now that I’m a wildlife rehabilitator and although I don’t work with groundhogs on the coast, maybe the question was meant as a compliment. Groundhogs are kinda cute!

Happy Valentine’s Day Hugs to Everyone! (and if someone gives you a card that likens you to a large, furry buck-tooth rodent, laugh really hard! Words are funnier now that I write.)

Photo credit goes to HogHaven.com. Visit them sometime to see how interesting, smart and cute groundhogs truly are, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.

Linda Bergman-Althouse, author of “Save Them All”

 

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Paws Pause For Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly with my friend’s niece Molly. I bought her a dolly, and she named her Holly!! Okay, I’ll stop. I always look forward to Christmas. Although I hear many a heavy sigh, followed by “not again,” it’s never too much for me. I love it all; the decorations, baking, the sweets that none of us should eat, the shopping, the presents and the wrapping, the music, the Christmas cards, friends coming over for tea, the hugging and the all encompassing reason for the season. I embrace every minute detail! My cats, Kitty, Pearl, Cybill and Seven, can’t possibly comprehend any of that, but they seem to love the holiday season even more than I do. Normally, we’re a fairly laid back household. I can’t get the furry ones to do much more than sleep, eat and make deposits in the litter box during the rest of the year. And I’m usually the only one who moves toward the door when the bell rings and when people enter, one might hear the lack of traction on the kitchen flooring because the furry foursome can’t become invisible fast enough. Some people don’t believe I have cats, they never see them (even the pet sitter) until Christmas time. I was even accused of renting them just for the holidays. But when the season begins, my “hideouts” are definitely under foot. They want to see everything and everybody. The postman is exceptionally exciting because he usually has a box to open, which means they get to watch me remove presents, which they sniff audibly and when the box is empty, they jump in. There’s some pure joy current in the air that truly has an affect on them. It begins when the tree and boxes of decorations come down from the attic, watch out, they can hardly contain themselves. Fortunately they are not destructive, they just want to see and be a part of everything. They paw the ornaments before I get them to the tree and visit each light on the strand as it lays across the carpeting during testing. After the tree is up and decorating completed, my furry children want to be near it, either on the arm of the sofa, sitting in front of it gazing at the twinklings or under it but fortunately,  never in it.

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Christmas Carols will bring them close to the stereo or radio. Kitty and Pearl don’t seem to mind how loud I play them. Presents are something to rub against or lean their heads on when they snooze. You won’t find our cats approaching anyone throughout the rest of the year, but during the holidays, they want a pet from everyone. They even become so bold as to jump into a strange lap or two. They get ecstatic when we open gifts on Christmas morning. They are simply so thrilled to roll around in the wrapping paper that it appears they have been waiting for this special treat all year (and there is no presence of catnip). Their unusual behavior at Christmas always astounds but warms me. May you, also, enjoy some of this strange behavior as our paws pause for Christmas. Savor the holiday moments, connect with those you love (or merely tolerate), sniff all the Christmas goodies, feel the vibrations of some great carols and jump on a lap or two. I remember reading a verse that goes something like: “When you worry and hurry through your day it is like an unopened gift . . . thrown away. Life is not a race. Take it slower and hear the music, before the song is over.” Those wise words shared with me are a regift from me to you. Please carry them with you to 2008.

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Merry Christmas To All, and To All A Good Night!!!!

Linda Bergman-Althouse

Author & Wildlife Rehabilitator

(Let’s hope there are lots of “Save Them All” under Christmas Trees this year!)

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What Takes Us Away

For those of you who were wondering, “where in the heck is she, and is she okay?” I’m back, and I apologize if I made you worry. Sometimes life happenings just pull me away from my normal routine of writing or rehabbing wild animals, and it takes a while to get back in the groove. It could have been an injury or illness or some crisis at the college that took me away, but this life happening was of the good kind, a most excellent, wonderful kind. My daughter in Texas had her first baby (a little early) and it was time to go “Grandma and All Baby” for a while, a while that seems all too short now that I’ve returned to North Carolina, 1, 395.89 miles away. Sydney Grace arrived October 6th and weighed in at 5 lbs 6 oz; a tiny thing. She was small but perfect. Although she had received an extensive newborn wardrobe during her baby shower this summer at Topsail Beach (remember reading my blog post of July 23rd “A Week in Pink?”), a quick shop for adorable preemie clothes was necessary. She has outgrown them already as she hit 7 lbs last week. Knowing I was spending quite a few weeks out of town, I naively thought I could get a smatch of writing accomplished on my next book, “The Purple Fence,” or a blog post or two in during the down time. When a baby is born, when is that? After seeing and holding Sydney, the thought of writing actually went out the window. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I was more into the feeding, burping, changing, laundry, rocking, whispering “Grandma to Sydney” messages and gazing mode at all hours of the day or night. At 4:30 am, I surprisingly look ecstatic in this picture (even with no make-up), and what’s more surprising, I actually was.
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This little human animal was as unpredictable as the wildlife I rehabilitate at OWLS in Newport, however, because she has no teeth or talons, leather gloves were not required. During the very still, sleeping moments of Sydney’s day, time when I needed to let her be, I spent some energy giving much appreciated attention to the six resident dogs and cats who were more than curious about the new addition to the family. It was apparent they understood she wasn’t quite like them. The three dogs loved being brushed and running around the yard, especially if I was watching them. The cats enjoyed the brushing as well but passed on the yard activity to curl up on the window seat and mock the dogs. (I swear!) Some things take us away from our self-imposed schedules and goals, but some of what takes us away is very, very good. Things that shouldn’t be missed. Although I feel the need to get back to my writing, I want to be taken away again soon, but if that happens, now you’ll have an idea of where I might be when you notice my absence; spending time with my baby and her baby.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!! May you all be blessed with the connection and warmth of family and friends.

Sharing and signing off with so much to be thankful for,

Linda Bergman-Althouse, author of “Save Them All

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