Cats&Grammar

Archive for the ‘In General’ Category

This is a recent post by my blogging friend, Samantha. I quite agree with the importance of hands. And, opposable thumbs are Mother Nature’s true gifts – or so my cats tell me 😉

samanthamurdochblog

2017-03-31 (2)

These lyrics fit quite nicely with the theme of this post, and although they were originally Eydie Gorme’s, I remember the Max Bygraves version very clearly… thanks Grandad…

Obviously in addition to hands, we have opposable thumbs, which are generally quite useful, although I still can’t open child-proof caps, and recently, while I was trying to take the cap off an ironically named safety razor, I sliced a perfect semicircle of flesh out of the tip of my thumb. Nothing happened for a moment, but then the blood began to flow and it REALLY hurt… it was on my right hand and it made life awkward for a couple of days as I couldn’t even hold a pen without crying… I’m not very good at pain!

HANDS 1 (2)My hands… clutching Charlie, enjoying a sneaky squish of soft fur before she woke up…

It’s only until you can’t use your hands that…

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As the administrative manager of a small law office, my responsibilities are varied. Pretty much anything except the practice of law can and often does fall within my purview. From time to time, I conduct searches for part-time administrative assistants. I don’t have a lot of time to review scads of resumes; therefore, I have crafted my advert in such a way that I can tell by the initial response whether a candidate has what it takes to warrant an interview.

Honestly, I don’t want to waste your time any more than I want to waste my own.  I’ve provided all of the details about the job that are pertinent: it’s part-time; it’s morning hours; it’s Monday through Friday; and it’s mostly reception, light admin duties. Its purpose is to support the attorneys and the admin manager\paralegal for 20 hours a week. I’ve even included a description of the person I’d like to hire.

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I also require that a properly addressed and formatted cover letter accompany an applicant’s resume. This is an important detail. Think you can send me just a resume with no cover letter? Forget it. If you can’t take the time to provide what I’ve requested, I’m not taking the time to consider you, let alone call you for an interview.

Now I know that properly addressing the letter is difficult without a little assistance, so I provide the information necessary: my name and title. Proper format – now that one can be tricky – who determines what the proper format for a standard business letter is?

Well…. In ancient times when I went to grade school, my English teacher taught us that the basic parts of a business letter are sender’s address, date, inside (recipient’s) address, salutation, body, and closing.

A Google search of “proper business letter format,” shows that it hasn’t changed. Given that you’re applying to a law office and that the law is steeped in precedent and tradition, attorneys and their support staff tend to be sticklers for form. Details matter.

Here are a few samples of things that make me hesitate to consider you or, worse, just reject your submission outright.

  1. Letters addressed to: To Whom it May Concern, Dear Sir\Madam, Dear Hiring Manager.  Why?  I’ve given you my name and title in the job posting. Please follow directions
  2. Letters addressed to: Dear Victoria (or better yet a nickname variant of that, usually misspelled)- Excuse me, have we met? The proper salutation for a named, but not personally known individual is “Dear Ms. (or Mr.) Last Name.”
  3. Reference the wrong field: I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve received for people wanting to work in a, “busy medical practice.” That’s nice, but you won’t find that with us.
  4. Reference to afternoon hours. Too bad, this is a morning job.
  5. Failure to use standard grammar and usage. Seriously, please make sure that nouns and verb tenses match, that pronouns are appropriate, and that punctuation is correct.
  6. Typographical errors.

There is an old idiom that a former manager of mine used to use, “The devil is in the detail.” Details are important. So is following directions. Your submission forms the first impression I have of you. Make it a good one, and you’ll get an interview.

 

 

 

“Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside she is covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary–and terrible elegant. ”

― Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

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The Domesticated Hedgehog (a\k\a white-bellied or four-toed hedgehog), is a species much smaller than its European cousin.  In the wild, members of this breed are found scattered from Senegal in western Africa to southern Somalia and Tanzania on the east. Sometimes referred to as African pygmy hedgehogs, owing to their size and origin, they became a fad pet in the 1990s. Utterly adorable, these odd little creatures can make wonderful companions.  But, hedgehogs are not for everybody. Even the most experienced pet owner should carefully consider whether to welcome one of these little urchins into his or her home.

Luckily, I did not practice what I now preach.

My entrée into hedgehog parenting came about in December 2013. My best friend had decided to give one to her daughter, J, who had been wanting one most of her life.  Her mother, wisely, held off until J was nearly 17 years old. The promise of a hedgehog was all wrapped up under the Christmas tree.

Now, I have to admit, I was just teensy bit jealous. I have adored hedgehogs since my mother read me The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle. Of course, because my mother had been raised in Britain, she was able to add little details about the European species.  I believed that hedgehogs were the most magical and enchanting of creatures. (There are no living species of hedgehog that is native to N. America. I had no idea how charming they are in real life.) So when the opportunity to go with the family when it was time for J to collect on the promise, I couldn’t resist.

A tiny bit of background: December 2013 was less than two months after my mother passed away. She and I had been very close, especially near the end of her life.  I found myself overly emotional about a lot of things… including hedgehogs.  The moment I laid eyes on the three little lads from whom J was to pick, I was smitten. I was pressed into service to hold one of the boys whilst J made her choice. My heart filled to bursting when he snuggled into my jumper and fell asleep. I hadn’t felt that kind of joy – well, let’s just say, the sudden break from mourning grief was overwhelming. Rashly, unexpectedly, I decided to adopt (read purchase) the little prickly dude. I named him Thistle, honoring his spikes and my Scottish heritage.

Having a new “someone” to focus on was a balm for my heart.  The learning curve, however, was steep. I was used to cats and dogs – hedgehogs, well….

Hedgies are solitary creatures in and by nature. Males especially can be rather territorial. However, they will bond with their human companion provided sufficient time and care is taken to build that connection. They have excellent hearing and sense of smell.  Their eyesight leaves a lot to be desired, but as they are nocturnal, it made sense.  I had to be very careful about letting him wander on the table. Having no depth perception, Thistle would step off the edge into thin air giving us both heart-stopping fits. And he could move! One minute he’d be bumbling along and the next he’d be halfway across the room.

Thistle made little, if any, noise. He had a gentle whuffling sound he’d make when curiously sniffing about.  An indignant HUFF!! would accompany a small jumping motion if I startled him or tried to pick him up without his permission.  He’d emit the funniest little growl\grunt if I persisted on bothering him, which nearly always had me giggling and him huffing even more!

We gradually grew used to each other. Neither of us liked bath time. Bonding time was special, though. I looked forward to our evening sessions: quiet time spent watching TV or reading a book while he nestled in his blanket (or, more often than not, in my shirt.) The cats would curl up next to us and feign indifference.  My therapist had suggested meditation to help with my grieving process, and I discovered that Thistle was the perfect partner. He had a very “zen” personality – always living in the moment.  He could sit quietly for ages just breathing.  He also provided useful biofeedback.  If I were too restless, he’d bristle. That was a sure cue to refocus and stop wrestling with my mind monkey.

Hedgehog lifespans average about 3.5 years. Unfortunately, Thistle and I didn’t have that long. He developed a stomach cancer, and I had him euthanized a few months shy of his second birthday. He was the most rewarding pet I have ever spent time with, so much so that I happily, and mindfully, adopted his successor, Bramble, a happy, healthy little boy.  We’ve recently celebrated our first anniversary together.

brambles-glamour-shot

I Sit

Posted on: 2017/01/27


As I sit
I breathe
In
Out
Aware
Air in nostrils
Rush of wind
Waves
Neap and ebb
Thoughts
Little monkeys
Lead me astray
From the breath
But I return
Filling lungs
Emptying stress
Easing heartache
Monkeys distract
With traffic passing
Purring cat
Running hedgehog
Quiet monkeys
For a moment
While I sit
And I breathe

We interrupt this blog to bring you a personal (and most likely) unnecessary quick confession.

I had originally started this blog in January of 2013, shortly after my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The intent: a space to let my inner child (okay – and my outer one, too) howl and rail at the fates. I naïvely believed that I would journal my way through the experience of losing my dearest parent.  Having lost my father 14 years or so prior, I thought, “I know what’s coming. I can cope. I just need to find outlets for my thoughts. When faced with death, it’s a good time to get creative.” How little I did know…

Today, it’s July 2016. Three-and-a-half years have gone by. During that time, I have cherished my mother, nursed her, celebrated her, and mourned her.  Her battle with cancer lasted 10 months. She died, October 21, 2013, at our home surrounded by her cats and an incredible amount of love.  I never did write about what was going on during that terrible\wonderful year. Mainly, I lived in the moment and responded as needed, when needed.  Since her death, I have grieved and I have learned.

So much of who I am now and what I have to say was born then, in that ten-month span. It’s amazing what a woman in her mid-forties can discover when she’s not paying attention. I couldn’t possible continue with my writing if I didn’t acknowledge its source.  Thank you for listening.

We now return to our regularly scheduled whimsy. Here are those magnificent cat companions: Lexie, Mog, and Myster.

@Lexie @Moggie @Myster

I love languages, especially my own, the English language.  While it can be difficult to learn, I find it rich in rewards.  My favourite reward is the playfulness it can inspire.

Other cultures also like to play with their languages.  The Japanese have a poetic style known as “haiku”.  This short, structure poem form requires three lines with specific syllable counts (five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables).  For example:

Haiku poetry

Quite deceptively simple

Syllables fight back

 

Local accents can add (or delete) syllables, so I find myself counting on my fingers as I slowly say the words.

Many share love of the haiku.  Let me introduce you to my favourite: Haiku Ewe.  The brainchild of Big Al, the Gal, Haiku Ewe describes her life and activities using only the haiku form.  I think she and her creator are brilliant.

 

Check them out if you have a chance at http://www.gocomics.com/haikuewe.

Welcome! Come on in. Settle down. Let’s get to know one another.  I’ll start.

I am a woman, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, Bostonian, paralegal, writer, reader, massage therapist, musician, individual, 40-something-Anglophilic-Aries-auriliophile.

Why have I named my blog Cats & Grammar? I love cats. All cats: big cats, small cats, wild cats, demented cats (of which there have been quite a few in my life), fat cats, skinny cats, and most of all, MY cats.  And, I love words. I love languages. Language is fun. Grammar and usage is my geeky pleasure.

Beyond cats and grammar, I am passionate about life, love, music, learning, hedgehogs, children, reading, travel – especially to Great Britain – and so much more.

I plan to use this blog to explore things that rouse my curiosity and pass along things I’ve learned. Occasionally, there will be the odd creative piece of writing. I leave the defining of “odd” up to you, Dear Reader.

Please visit often and let me know you’ve stopped by with comment – whether a simple hello or a bit of constructive criticism – I’m looking forward to the conversation.


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