April 1, 2020

Her name is Rabbit

Her name is Rabbit. She is a cat. And throughout her 17 years with me, she has proven her worth many times over.

Rabbit, the cat that hops like a bunny and quacks like a duck

It all started with that “golden paw” on my front door. Stray cats would walk down my street looking for a place to get a handout or take up residence. Rabbit saw the “golden paw” on my screen door, rang my doorbell and said, “Hi, I’m your new cat.”

Actually, it didn’t go quite like that. The first time I saw her, she was a streaking blur across my backyard. I had gone outside to check on my border collie, who was running laps around the fence line. He was oblivious to the brown streak that shot under the deck.

At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. But then I saw the streak again, and eventually the flash came into focus. It was a Manx kitten, and when she realized I was not a threat, she started hopping and bouncing toward me.

With only a stub of a tail and her habit of hopping, she was named Rabbit. And she quickly snuggled her way into my affections. Despite her youth, she was already street smart. And since I had a mild allergy to cats, I taught her to use a pet door into a backyard shed and she lived there. She and the border collie established a wary truce and we were a happy family.

Rabbit is unique in many ways, especially her meow. She sounds more like a duck than a feline. I call her the Cat Named Rabbit Who Quacks Like a Duck.

We’ve moved since the backyard shed days to a condominium complex where there’s little traffic. Rabbit now lives in the garage, but she is so friendly she knows everyone in the complex. She hangs out at the pool and meows for attention and has charmed several neighbors into giving her treats. She is the unofficial mascot for our community.

When I took her to the vet for her checkup this year, the doc pronounced her in perfect health. Even though she is now officially a senior cat, she has never had any medical problems and she has never caused me any trouble.

Rabbit is my little five-pound wonder – my bargain cat. If I had it to do over again, I’d gladly pay good money for her.

…Sheila Allee [Note: This essay is my September 2019 contribution to the BRAINZ writing group. The writing prompt was “Bargains.”]

Free to Write March 16, 2020 — Down time

Ever since I met my husband Tom, he has been trying to convince me of the value of rest, relaxation and the art of just being. Over the years, I’ve slowed down some. But it has taken a global pandemic to stop me in my tracks.

I’ve written about this before – my tendency to go at life at a fast pace. To get as much done as possible on any given day. To fill up my calendar with endless activities and chores.

Lord knows I need down time to write and journal. And I’ve managed to carve out a few hours on a somewhat regular basis to do just those things.

But now, with a life-threatening virus spreading, I have no choice but to slam on the brakes and stay home. No trips to the YMCA to exercise. No lunches with friends or evenings at restaurants. No church activities or volunteer work. And only limited trips to the grocery store and pharmacy.

So what’s a writer to do?

I can think of two things.

The first thing I’m suggesting has nothing to do with writing. I’m reaching out to friends who live alone and making sure they’re okay. I’m in good health and have no underlying conditions that make me more susceptible to the virus. So far, I live in a city with very few cases, so if I don’t get close to others, I can help my older friends with a grocery run or some other necessity.

Second, I can take full advantage of all this unexpected down time and use it to work on my book project. I’m about two-thirds of the way into the first draft. Now is the perfect time to hunker down and focus on the final chapters. It’s like a gift from heaven.

I got a similar gift many years ago when I was working on my first book Texas Mutiny. I got laid off from work and it took eight months to find another job. I wasn’t happy about being unemployed, but I used that time to make a lot of progress on the manuscript.

I hope you can use some of this forced down time to do some writing, whether it’s journaling, crafting your life stories or working on a larger project that needs a lot of focus.

I also encourage you to remember friends and family members why may need help during the current pandemic. This week’s Writing Spark might help you think about this notion in specific ways.


Writing sparks

  1. Who can you reach out to in a caring and helpful way during the current flu outbreak? Write down some names and check on them. If you can’t go to their aid, maybe you know someone who can.
  2. Being intentional about using this time to write is a really good idea. That means sitting down with your calendar and getting specific about when you will write. Make appointments – set aside specific times when you will journal or work on a project. Then be sure to follow through!

The current crisis won’t last forever – even though it seems like it will. I encourage you to make the most of what time it frees up for you.

Free to Write March 9, 2020 — Expecting the Unexpected

“Sometimes the best things in life are unexpected.” — Faith Sullivan

Have you ever noticed how quickly life can change? Things seem to be rocking along in a predictable manner and then wham! Everything is upside down.

Just last week, we saw the race for the presidency take a dramatic turn. Before Super Tuesday, there were umpteen candidates running for the Democratic nomination. In a few days, we were down to two.

This sudden change got me to thinking about the abrupt flips and turns my life has taken.

On the job front

During my career as a writer, I saw my fortunes change at lightning speed. There was the time I quit my job so I could become a freelance speechwriter. I had no work lined up and it seemed a crazy thing to do. But I had a strong inner sense that it was the right path.

Within three days, I had a part-time writing gig at The University of Texas – a job that would keep some money coming in. After another month, I became a contract speechwriter for the American Medical Association.

And then there was the time a few years ago when I was laid off from my job unexpectedly. Within a short time, I became head of The Writers’ League of Texas.


I’ve seen some pretty quick changes in my personal life, too. Eight years ago, I was happily single and living a full life. I wasn’t dating anyone and didn’t plan to.

Then I met Tom and in short order, it was clear that he and I were going to go the distance together.

On a sadder note, in 2009 my 90-year-old mother was living alone, driving and managing her own affairs. She had tons of friends. Then she fell and broke her hip and the life she knew came to an end overnight. She moved to a retirement community where she could have more support.

Like the picture above says: You never know what’s around the corner.

Writing spark

How has your life changed dramatically and quickly? Think back and write down a few occasions that come to mind. Then write about one of them in detail. Try to free write – keeping your pen on the page and writing as fast as you can. Try not to think too much. Write about what happened and how you felt at the time.

Free to Write March 2, 2020 — Breathtaking wonders

“Always be thankful for the little things… even the smallest mountains can hide the most breathtaking views!”
― Nyki Mack

There have been a few times in my life when I’ve seen something breathtaking. The most recent was last week when I went to the Grand Canyon.

My friends told me it is a spectacular sight, and they were so right. I almost couldn’t believe the view from the South Rim – the colors, the layers of rock, the tiny Colorado River a mile down the slope.

Like my husband Tom said, words cannot adequately describe this natural wonder. And neither can pictures. But that didn’t stop me from snapping a bunch of images.

Other gob smacking moments

I can think of a few other times when I’ve come upon a sight and stopped cold. When I was strolling around Florence, Italy, in 2002, I rounded a corner and was stunned at the façade of Il Duomo. What a spectacular architectural creation!

Il Duomo in Florence, Italy

I found the view of the Eiffel Tower, especially at night when it sparkles with shimmering lights, another “Omigosh” moment.

And then there was the spotted puffer fish I saw while snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez. I actually screamed with delight under water when I saw this exquisite creature.

The pufferfish I saw was purple, but I didn’t have an underwater camera. This one will have to do.

The takeaway

After I got over being awestruck at the magnificence of the Grand Canyon, I started thinking about how I want it to be protected and preserved for all time.

I was glad to see that high value is placed on keeping Grand Canyon National Park clear of trash. There are signs warning visitors not to feed the wildlife and to refrain from throwing coins into the canyon. The gift shops sell water in reusable metal bottles and there are multiple water refill stations.

I feel the same sense of responsibility for protecting all the other wonders of this world – both natural and human-made. They are treasures to be respected and cared for through the ages.

Writing spark

Here’s a one-word writing prompt: BREATHTAKING

Set a timer for 10 minutes and write about one or more breathtaking scenes from your life experience.