Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Jacki Kellum Memoir

The New Year’s Eve That I Finally Turned Into A Pumpkin

Growing old comes by seasons or degrees. Like the flowers and leaves of nature outside, our bodies and our minds change; and we become different creatures, according to our seasons. Those differences are nowhere more obvious than on New Year’s Eve.

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When I was a child, New Year’s Eve meant shooting fireworks. To this day, I love the smell of firecrackers and sparklers. Holding my wand of hot, twinkling magic, I would write my name and draw stars into the blue-black sky; and shooting Roman candles was the ultimate thrill:

My Roman Candle Minute
by Jacki Kellum

Silent Night, No Moon Light,
I point my wand at space.

I light a match and watch it glow,
I plant my feet in place.

First, an ember gnaws the string.
Boom! Then One! Two! Three!

A Canopy of shooting stars
Arches over me.

Silent Night, No Moon Light,
A twist of smoke puffs now.

I’ve had my fun–
My star-struck gun–
My Sixty-Second Wow!

Copyright My Roman Candle Minute Jacki Kellum December 10, 2015

Soon, I traded my childhood fireworks for New Year’s Eve parties. By the time that I was 17, I was convinced that if I didn’t have a date and someone to kiss at midnight, I should crawl into a cave and hide there until January 2.

By the time that I was 30-years-old, I began having ambiguous feelings about New Year’s Eve and the proper way to celebrate it. My children were babies then. If I wanted to go out and party, I would need to find a babysitter who was willing to work past late, and I was married to someone who didn’t enjoy socializing and parties. I began staying home on New Year’s Eve, but there was an omnipresent, nagging voice telling me that I should be somewhere else–and doing something much more festive.

Those years merged into the days when my children became firework-shooting age. The smells of firecrackers and sparklers returned, and Roman candles arched across my lawn once more. Because my children were widely spaced in years, that period lasted for a while. Meanwhile, my ex-husband and I divorced, and New Year’s traditions and many other ideals went up in smoke. It became simpler to stay home on New Year’s Eve, but I still felt twinges of doubt about missing the party. I already realized that my home is where I preferred to be on New Year’s Eve, but didn’t They–the others around–expect more of me.

Time marched onward, and now, the carousel has spun almost around. By the time that I was 60-years-old, my children have had left home, and my grandchildren were far away. I had not gotten so timeworn that I tucked myself in by 8:00 pm, and I was usually wide awake at midnight. That was the case last New Year’s Eve.

Promptly at midnight, my pre-teen neighbors began shooting their Roman candles. With a boom, a whistle, and a fizz, 2015 became 2016. I was propped up on my pillow, and my soft, cotton sheets were gathered around me. My quilt was pulled across my toes, and my dog was curled by my side. I sipped a glass of wine and smiled. Ahhhh! I had finally realized that the perfect way to celebrate the coming of a new year was when I was safe and snug, at home.

I turned off my light and slept.

The next day would be the beginning of a whole new season.

Copyright Jacki Kellum January 1, 2016

Smoke

When What You See Is Not What You Get – Symbolism In Art and Writing

You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul. – George Bernard Shaw

Many times, artists bury nougats of truth about themselves or about what they are thinking in their art and their writing. Symbolism–it’s a clever game. You say one thing, but you mean another, and the odd thing is that you really want people to figure what that other thing is all about. Often, what the viewer actually sees or reads in an artist’s work is only a tiny part of what the artist is saying.

It is rather like the silly game that is played by petty wives.  When their husbands hurt their feelings or if their husbands forget birthdays or anniversaries, the wives sulk. The husband asks, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“But I know something is wrong.”

“I’m fine.”

Even though the woman protests that something has upset her, she behaves as though something has, and she wants the husband to guess what that something is. It is as though the true test of love is clairvoyance. The wife is implying that if the husband can see deep into her soul, he truly loves her, and he wins the game.

When I was married, I wanted nothing more than for my husband to stop on a deserted lot and to pick me bunches of wildflowers or daisies or red clover or whatever else that he could find. But he never did. A smarter wife would have simply said, “I need flowers from you at least once per month.” But in my mind, that would have ruined the whole thing. I needed for my ex-husband to intuitively know that I needed flowers–even free flowers–at least once per month. I seemed to believe that if another person could see deeply  into my soul, and if he could decipher all of my wants and my needs, he would be my one, true love. No doubt, that is one reason that I am divorced.

I play that same kind of game with my art and writing. About 15 years ago, I wrote a group of short verses about flowers. My idea was to illustrate each flower and to publish the book of paintings and verses together, and I would call the volume Garden Songs. [Shhhh! I didn’t just tell you that. I still plan to do it. But like so many other things, I simply haven’t gotten it done].

Keep in mind that I want all of the poems to be very short so that they don’t detract from the paintings that will be the true focus of the page. Even though the verses are short, however, I want them to have greater meaning. I want the verses and the images to be symbols for greater truths. Here is the poem that I wrote about Snapdragons:

The Painted Parade
by Jacki Kellum

Watch the painted parade,
With bold and biting dragons,
Teasing all the toddlers—even me!

They’re really just pretending.
Everyday’s a New Year,
A fun and festive firework jamboree.

© Painted Parade Jacki Kellum October 19, 2015

My grandmother always had snapdragons in her garden, and I used to love to pinch the snapdragons and allow them to bite me or at least close around the tip of my finger and nibble me. When I heard the dragon part of the word “snapdragon,” I thought about the Dragon Dance in the Chinese New Year’s Parade, and that provided me a springboard into what would become part of my greater meaning.

On one level, the poem is simply about a colorful bed of flowers that have the capacity to nibble at my fingertips–like a biting dragon, the “dragon” part of the word “snapdragon.” On another level, the parade is talking about the non-scary, scary dragon in a Chinese parade. But on the deepest level, my poem is about something entirely different.

When I said, “Watch the Painted Parade,” I was actually chastising all of the people around me that I thought were being pretentious, wearing masks, and playing games.

My simple, little ditty about Snapdragons was actually a symbol for the way that I felt deep within myself about people who are fake. I do this type of thing all of the time. In other words, what you think that you see in my art and in my writing, is not all that there actually is. My art and my writing are only the tips of an iceberg that lies deeply within me.

Now, here is the silly part: I actually want my viewer and my reader to know what I am thinking, but just like a silly wife, I want you to guess what that is.  My art and my writing are keys to some of the gems that I keep locked inside myself.

You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul. – George Bernard Shaw

©Jacki Kellum October 24, 2016

Tiny

The Importance of Learning to Wait

Two years ago, I had a blue kitchen. It was not a navy blue kitchen. I could have lived with that. My kitchen was a neutral color of blue that had no personality at all. In all of my years, I have never seen another kitchen that was the color of my dated and lackluster kitchen. Even the floor was blue. It was covered with a cheap blue vinyl, and the entire room screamed, “I was never fashionable.”

 

A few years ago, I tried to sell my house, and as soon as the potential buyers saw my kitchen floor, they turned around and walked back out of the house. Some of the cabinets had begun falling apart, and I decided that something had to be done about my kitchen. I knew that until I changed things, I would never sell my house, and since I had no money, I decided to fix the problem myself.

To disassemble the cabinets, I advertised on Craigslist that anyone who could take them down and cart them away could have them. I knew that I wanted stainless steel appliances, and I practically gave away my white appliances, too. Then, with a hammer clenched in my hand, I attacked the wall that stood between my tiny kitchen and my tiny dining room, and I myself removed that sucker. Now, I had one big room that would one day become a wonderful kitchen, but I didn’t have the resources to finish the job, so I waited. For over a year, my kitchen consisted of a crock pot, and electric skillet, and an old and dying refrigerator. Then, that refrigerator expired, and I bought my first new kitchen appliance–a beautiful stainless steel refrigerator.

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During my entire life, I have never lived in a newly built house; therefore, every time that I have moved into a house, a used refrigerator came with the used home. Although I have found it necessary to replace my fridges before, this was the first time that I have actually gone to the store and bought a new one. I was  66-years-old, and for the first time in my life, I had a brand new refrigerator–a stainless steel refrigerator–and one that had no scratches or dents.

As I stood and admired my new fridge and the beginning of my new kitchen, I considered how differently that I might have viewed the buying of a new refrigerator if I had been privy to tons of new appliances before now–and if during my lifetime, I had never actually wanted anything. Had that been the case, I would probably have been irritated by the minor hassle that replacing an old, dead appliance had caused and when I watched my new refrigerator rolling through my door, I would have experienced very little pleasure at all. I would have thought, “Easy come, easy go, It’s just a new appliance. It’s no big deal.” But that was not the way that the scenario plalyed out.

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For the first time in my life, I had a brand new and shiny refrigerator, and I was thrilled.

This will sound odd, but I am happy that I don’t have everything that I want. I am even happy that I don’t have everything that I need, and I am happy that I have learned how to wait. The wanting and the waiting make me more appreciative when I actually receive.

For what I have received may the Lord make me truly thankful. And more truly for what I have not received. – Storm Jameson

Things could be quite different for me now that I am older and retired. I could have NOTHING left to want and there could be Nothing that would make my day. Thank goodness, that is not the case for me. It doesn’t take much at all to turn my life into a party.

©Jacki Kellum October 18, 2016

Waiting

It’s Time for the Test – Submitting Work for Publication

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 Tomorrow Is October 1 – The Day that I Launch the Free Jacki Kellum Writing Class

It is also the day that I am submitting my first writing for publication.

About the Free Jacki Kellum Writing Class Blog to Memoir:

For several weeks, I have been saying that because I began seriously writing  on October 1, 2015, I decided to celebrate that anniversary by offering a free writing class for anyone who wants to participate.

I’ll run the free writing class through my blog site jackikellum.com Here
& through the site that I specifically created for the class: blogtomemoir.com. Here

Each day,  I’ll post the daily assignment by 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time USA. I believe that early morning is the best time to write and for that reason, your writing assignment will be ready for you first thing each day.

Why Blog to Memoir?

  1. When we write about the actual experiences of our lives, our writing is fresher, more alive, and more authentic. For that reason, excavating your memories is an invaluable exercise–a way to create vivid writing samples for any of your other writing.
  2. It is not necessary for you to actually blog your writing. You may simply check out the daily writing exercises and explore them on your own. Throughout the course, however, I’ll share several ways that blogging daily has improved both my writing and my outlook on life. I heartily recommend writing daily, and for several reasons, I am convinced that blogging is the best way to store your writing. Blogging regularly is also a good way to build your brand and to share your writing with others. Note: You do not have to make your blog public.
  3. Several people have successfully completed books by blogging the parts of their books one by one and then, by assembling the parts of the book at the end. This practice has been labeled Blog to Book. For the past year, I have been blogging my memoir [and several other books] one step at a time. Soon, I plan to assemble my memoir pieces together and to submit my own memoir book for publication. Hence: I Am Blogging to Memoir  Book

For the past year, I have blogged something almost daily. I have written several first drafts, and now, it is time to take my first test. Tomorrow, on October 1, I am submitting a section of my own memoir for publication. As I said before, October 1, 2016, is a very big day. It is the day that I am launching my free writing class through which I’ll share what I have learned about writing. It is also the day that I’ll test myself by daring to submit something for publication.

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Writing is simple for me. I love to talk, and when I write, I simply talk. Submitting my writing for publication is something different. When I submit what I have written to a panel of official judges, I am giving those judges the permission to say that what I have written is not good enough. I am allowing this band of impartial readers to say, “You are not a writer. You are simply playing at writing.” I am giving other people the opportunity to either approve me or to reject me. For me, this is scary business, but I have passed all of the steps leading up to the next one. It is time.

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It is time for me to step out of the pool of pretenders and to begin swimming toward the shore.

Tomorrow, I am submitting my first piece for publication. I am daring to take the test. This time next year, I’ll whistle for everyone else to joing me, “Come on out. The water is fine.”

©Jacki Kellum September 30, 2016

Test

Stephen King On Writing – Character Study of Eulah-Beulah – and Anne Lamott on Writing

“There was a stream of babysitters during our Wisconsin period…..The only one I remember with any clarity is Eula, or maybe it was Beulah. She was a teenager, and she was as big as a house, and she laughed a lot. Eula-Beulah had a wonderful sense of humor, even at four I could recognize that, but it was a dangerous sense of humor–there seemed to be a potential thunderclap hidden inside each hand-patting, butt-rocking, head-tossing outburst of glee….

“Eula-Beulah would be on the phone, laughing with someone, and beckon me over. She would hug me, tickle me, get me laughing, and then, still laughing, go upside my head hard enough to knock me down. Then she would tickle me with her bare feet until we were both laughing again.

“Eulah-Beulah was prone to farts–the kind that are both loud and smelly. Sometimes when she was so afflicted, she would throw me on the couch, drop her wool-skirted butt on my face, and let loose. ‘Pow!’ she’d cry in high glee. It was like being buried in marshgas fireworks. I remember the dark, the sense that I was suffocating, and I remember laughing.  Because, while what was happening was sort of horrible, it was also sort of funny. In many ways, Eula-Beulah prepared me for literary criticism. After having a two-hundred-pound babysitter fart on your face and yell Pow! The Village Voice holds few terrors.” King, Stephen, On Writing, pgs. 19-21

Yesterday, I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and I have been reeling from the re-realization of why I don’t read books that successful writers have written. Today, I have been moping around–feeling that I could never be as witty and as perfectly on-target as Anne Lamott’s writing is. This morning, I saw the topic for today’s WordPress Daily Prompt, but I was simply numb–“Radical”–I had nothing to say that was radical.

But Anne Lamott had blinded me with some radically real  reasons not to write, and that has been my focus until now:.

“And then I tell my students that the odds of their getting published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, ugly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe, but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway. But I try to make sure they understand that writing, and even getting good at it, and having books and stories and articles published, will not open the doors that most of them hope for. It will not make them well. It will not give the feeling that the world has finally validated their parking tickets, that they have in fact finally arrived. My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird pgs. xxix-xxx.

Today, I stumbled through my morning Story Hour, and I came home and tried to write again. I still had nothing to say. So I simply took a nap. When I awoke, I was  thinking about the first time that I tasted a cream cheese croissant, and I had to acknowledge that this was a radical thought. The occasion had occurred over thirty years ago, and I have really not thought about the event since that time.

My first cream cheese croissant was hot, and the cream cheese was oozy, and the crust was flaky, and the first bite sizzled on my tongue. It was like a drop of dew on a hot, parched pavement. Although it sounds cliché, the crust and the cheese melted in my mouth, and afterward, the nectar dripped down my throat. That simple cheese croissant had changed my perspective on desserts, and I love desserts. That was a radical experience.

I had grown up in rural America, where chocolate cake and pumpkin pie were about as rich as the sweets ever got.  But when I was about ten-years-old, however, my family went to a town that was forty miles away, and we bought a big bag of fresh doughnuts–one of every flavor and  many of several flavors. That experience raised my bar, where treats were concerned. But when I ate my first cheese croissant, the bar was lifted even higher.

The croissants that I buy now are no match for the ones that my friend and I bought in Jackson, Mississippi. The ones that I buy now are a little too much like Little Debbie cakes. There is something fake and unflaky and stiff and cold and slimy about them; and now that I have tasted the real thing, I know how to judge what is good and what is just a wannabe.

After my nap and my visions of cream cheese croissants, I felt slightly renewed. Maybe I would read ONE more book that was written by a famous writer. I picked up Stephen King’s On Writing, and a couple of pages into the text, I read about Eulah-Beulah. Now, that was a radical read for me. You have to understand that I am 66-years-old, and I grew up in the Deep South. I don’t say the word “f-a-r-t,” and if children in my school room said “b-u-t-t,” I made them miss recess. But I had to admit that there was something real about the way that King had described Eulah-Beulah. I decided that I needed to make a notation of Stephen King’s excellent character study of his babysitter, and I began to type the text into a blog post. When my Grammarly Spell Check questioned whether the word “farts” was really supposed to be “parts,” I laughed until my sides hurt.

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Clearly, Grammarly and I need to get a life–or perhaps we simply needed to have something radical happen–something fresh that would change the ways that we have been taught to see. I remembered that Anne Lamott DID say a few good things about writing, too. I timidly opened Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird, and like the Phoenix, rising from her ashes, I sprang upward and scrawled this post–bird  by bird.

©Jacki Kellum September 13, 2016

I’m ready for another day.

Radical

I Grew Up Beyond Where the Sidewalk Ends – Along the Road Less Traveled – Jacki Kellum Memoir

Image result for when was where the sidewalk ends published if_you_are_a_dreamer

I remember when Shel Silverstein’s book of poems Where the Sidewalk Ends was published. I had been married for a couple of years and I was not technically a child, but Silverstein’s book of poetry was perfect for me, regardless of my chronological age. In fact, when I read his poem The Invitation, I felt as though he had written it just for me. I still feel that way. To this very day, 42 years later, The Invitation is my favorite poem, and its words have become my mantra, and such is the power of great words. In 50 words or less, Shel Silverstein had convinced me that there was at least one other adult who was the same kind of dreamer and hope-er and magic bean buyer as I have always been, and he had assured me that it was okay.

I never thought about it before, but I actually grew up  just past where the sidewalk ended. I am saying this in both a literal and a metaphorical way. When I was very young, my street was one street behind my town’s main street, which was actually a state highway that ran through my town. Until I was about 10-years-old, my street was not paved. I grew up on a gravel road, and vast cotton fields began to stretch four houses beyond my house. As a child, I had the best of both worlds. I lived in a little town, but the country was only a stone’s throw away from me. I grew up with my feet in both worlds.

Probably when they paved my street, they also added a short stretch of sidewalk, but my house was always just beyond where the sidewalk ended. Because I grew up with a unique set of parents, this was true in more ways than one. My dad was known as the town’s cartoonist. He actually took a cartooning course that was offered by an outfit known as The Famous Artists. While other kids’ dads farmed, my dad drew cartoons, and believe me–in a small, rural town, that reality set my family apart.

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Image result for advertisement famous artists cartoon course  Image result for advertisement famous artists cartoon course

When I was a child, the Famous Artists Courses were advertised in magazines, and my dad was the kind of magic bean buyer who would purchase a course like the one offered by Famous Artists. Back in the 1950s, $275.00 was a lot of money–especially for country folks to spend on an art course, but I grew up in a home where the fluff was deemed important, and not surprisingly, that was instrumental in my becoming who I am.

Image result for advertisement famous artists cartoon course

Even though my dad had already purchased the cartoon course that was advertised in the magazines, I grew up taking the drawing tests, too. I drew every one of the test subjects–the pirate, the cowboy, the pin-up girl, and many other things. I was a child who grew up in a tiny cotton town that was hundreds of miles away from the nearest city, and it was during the 1950s. When I was very young, color television had not been invented, and everything about the Famous Artists Course was exotic to me. You cannot tell it in the photographs, but the books were massive. Yet, when I was still a still a little girl, I would drag out the books and do my very best to copy what I saw. Needless to say, one of my college degrees and master’s degrees is in art.

On the other side of the coin, my mother was always interested in writing. She actually wrote articles and stories and sold them to magazines. My mother has always been a private person, and I do not remember reading what she was writing, but from the time of my earliest childhood, I recall my mother’s writinIng, in her spare time. That also influenced me, and I also have a master’s degree in English, with an emphasis in writing. I cannot stress how unique my parents were, especially compared to the other adults in my tiny town, and because of my parents’ uniqueness, I felt that I had permission to become who I am today.

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When I read Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, I tend to puff out my chest. I am aware of the fact that I have followed a different path than most other adults–especially compared to people who grew up during the 1950s and in little country towns. And Frost’s poem validates me. Like Shel Silverstein, he says words that ring true to me. I know that I have taken the road less traveled by, but when I honestly examine my life. I was actually BORN on the road not taken. At least, I grew up on the road not taken by most. I was a child of hope-ers, dreamers, and magic bean buyers. Both literally and figuratively, I grew up beyond where the sidewalk ends, “And that has made all the difference.” Some people might think that this was a curse, but I view it as a blessing. I love the way that I live my life. Thank you, mom and dad.

©Jacki Kellum September 3, 2016

Sidewalk

How To Use Images to Improve Your SEO – Search Engine Optimization

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I discovered an outstanding pdf that explains SEO or Search Engine Optimization, and how to increase one’s searchability in Google. The pdf is an official Google publication. Therefore, I feel that it should be the last word on how to be better seen via Google search: http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf

The guide is a bit dense; therefore, I’ll summarize a few points that stuck out to me:

A blog post’s title is key to SEO.

Although Google has become bigger than life, it is important to remember that it is not a person and that you will get the best search results if you title your writing or your art in ways that machines understand. I am guilty of enjoying using arty titles, and when my titles are too obscure, I add a colon and an explanatory phrase.  About a year ago, I titled a short poem Butterfly Breeze, and later, I entered it in a blog post with nothing more than that same and opaque title. Later, I realized that the title ” Butterfly Breeze” is a bit vague for Google to get its “head” around. Here is the poem:

Butterfly Breeze
by Jacki Kellum

Soft and silver, the delicate, gossamer-like lace swept into my room
Whispering a butterfly breeze.

Whiff of a lily followed along,
Crickets and whippoorwills sang me song,

And moon dust cradled my head.
©Jacki Kellum October 7, 2015

When I limited my reference to this poem as nothing more than “Butterfly Breeze,” I might have attracted searchers who were looking at the migration of the Monarch butterfly [if I was lucky], or I might have attracted some environmentalists who were searching for information about how pollution affects butterflies and other insects.  But with that slippery title, I probably caught no butterflies at all. Over the course of a couple of years’ efforts to create a brand of my name, however, my blog post might have worked better with search engines if I had added something more after the poem’s title. I might have added the following words: “Jacki Kellum Poetry” or “Jacki Kellum Memoir” or “Jacki Kellum Memoir Poem.” Butterfly Breeze is all of the previous, and my attempt to be found by search engines would be best served if I had found a way to add all of the data as part of the title of my blog’s post. 

The way that you tag your images is also of importance.

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When we talk about tagging things in our posts, we are not talking about hanging a pretty and decorative label on it. Tags for online data are work-horses.

tags This shows the tags that I have most used today on this site. Since I have only begun blogging here today, the number of tags that I have used is still very small. Within a few months, I will have used thousands of tags to describe my blog posts to Google and to other Search Engines.

Important Note: You can also Tag the Images that You Insert Into Your Posts.

tag_image_tags Before I Tagged the above Image

tag_image_tags3After I tagged the above image.

Immediately before you click to insert an image into your post, you have an opportunity to add some metadata. In the previous image, you see how someone else had tagged the image of the tag as nothing more than music and some numbers. Notice here that I titled the tag the way that it relates to why I am using this image in my posts [Hint: I am not writing about music in this post]

I don’t add a caption. The caption shows up on the post.

I added an alternate tag. This allows me another chance to catch the search engines.

Notice that I separate the words in the title and the alt text with underlines.

 

 

 

 

 

I  admit it: I am an impulsive will-o-the-wisp. and I do not like to take the extra 15 seconds that it would require for me to fill in metadata for my images. Allow me to show you how simple that task actually is on a WordPress blog site:

Just before you click to insert your image, you see the following boxes:

How to Increase Google Statistics
How to Increase Google SEO with Image Tags

Arrow 1. Title your tag with small letters and an underscore between each word i.e. increase_seo_google

Arrow 2. Write a description with important keywords: How to increase your Google SEO Search Engine Optimization Statistics. In order to find the very best keywords, do a Google keyword search.

Arrow 3. Provide an alternate title tag with small letters and an underscore between each word: how-to-increase-your-search-engine-optimization

Arrow 4. Write a description of the image. Again, use keywords.

This is just 2 simple ways that will definitely increase your SEO.

Remember: If it is worth saying – it is worth being read. Increasing your SEO is the way that people find you and read you

©Jacki Kellum August 9, 2016

 

 

 

 

Jacki Kellum Thoughts on Time and Aging

In 1965, I was 15-years-old, and The Rolling Stones released the song Time Is On My Side. That was over a half a century ago, and much has changed since then. When I was 15-years-od, I believed that Time WAS on My Side, but I don’t feel that way now. Now, I feel as though Time is a luxury, and the tragedy has to do with the fact that I wasted an enormous amount of time in the process of discovering that truth. As Joni Mitchell says, “So Many Things I Would Have Done, but Clouds Got In My Way….[but] I’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now.”

Both Sids Now
by Joni Mitchell
Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
When I consider that Joni Mitchell was only 24-years-old when Judy Collins first released her song Both Sides Now, the lyrics amaze me. By the time that I was 24-years-old, I had almost died in a car accident that left me with several permanent scars, and in that regard, I had experienced more of life’s bitter truths than most yet 24-year-olds had discovered, but I still didn’t have a clue about all of the illusions and the delusions that I would eventually unveil. When I was 24-years-old, I still had not seen life from both sides now, and neither had Joni Mitchell.
I’ll post videos of Joni Mitchell when she initially sang Both Sides Now in her twenties and when she sang it again much later in life, and when you compare the videos, you begin to understand how much the passage of time changes us. It sobers us. Over the course of time, we experience disappointments, and we watch people die. Even worse, we watch relationships die when the people involved are still alive. In another of Joni Mitchell’s brilliant songs, she called life a game–The Circle Game.
The Circle Game
by Joni Mitchell
Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Joni Mitchell’ song The Circle Game is a masterpiece, but it doesn’t tell the entire story either. As soon as the boy reaches the age of twenty, the song ends:
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty…
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.
When I first heard this song, I was also turning twenty, and frankly, I am glad that I didn’t realize then how much both the voice of that tune and I would change over the next several years. The greatest of life’s games is that we don’t realize how precious the moments and the opportunities of youth actually are. During the times of our youths, the greatest of life’s misunderstandings is that we believe that we will be young forever.
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One of life’s greatest disappointments lies within discovering that Time itself is an illusion and that living is like chasing after a mirage. We waste too much of our lives looking too far ahead at something that seems to be golden and grand, but when we get there, that golden somethingness isn’t there at all. It was merely a shiny reflection in the sand.
“What was any art but a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself – life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.” – Willa Cather
I don’t want to pretend that art and writing are more than they actually, but in the almost final analysis, I can honestly say that my ability to create is the way that I begin to make sense of life’s Circle Game and the way that I have managed slow my own aging down and have prevented myself from spinning completely out of orbit. I will and I won’t remind everyone of the very true observation that youth is wasted on the young. That has been said so very many times and by so very many people that I am not sure who said it first.
“All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.” – J.M. Barrie – Peter Pan
I simply suffice it by saying that Time is a Luxury, but it is a luxury that will eventually run out. Ultimately, you will also be standing in the October of your own life singing my song Winter Comes Too Soon.
©Jacki Kellum August 8, 2016
Capture

Winter Comes Too Soon
A Picture Book Manuscript by Jacki Kellum

There’s a frenzy in my garden,
Squirrels can’t get enough.
Birds are looking frantically
For seeds and nuts and stuff.

The corn is dry and shriveled now,
A vine has reached the top.
Fading leaves are bending low,
And little pumpkins drop.

The monarchs moved to Mexico,
And geese are leaving, too.
The spider leaves a lacy web,
Her net is etched with dew.

Shadows creep across the lawn,
But there’s a big, bright moon.
Everything in my yard knows
That winter comes too soon.

Copyright Jacki Kellum October 8, 2015

 

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