Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Some Fun Facts About Halloween!

Greetings, Readers!

A Happy Halloween/All Hallow's Eve to all who celebrate!  Here in America, Halloween is a big deal - it is the second highest retail grossing holiday in the country, second only to Christmas!  In honor of this time of excess (and chocolate - lots and lots of chocolate!) I present to you today some fun facts about the history of Halloween and its traditions!

1. Trick-or-treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out food to appease spirits who roamed the streets during Samhain, a sacred festival that marked the end of the Celtic calendar year. Ireland is generally accepted as the birthplace of Halloween!

2. Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Celtic Samhain holiday.
I is scary!  RAWR!
3. Trick-or-treating dates back to the Middle Ages! “Souling” is a medieval Christian precursor to modern-day trick-or-treating. On Hallowmas (November 1, now known as All Saints Day), the poor would go door-to-door offering prayers for the dead in exchange for soul cakes, a sweet and tasty treat!

4. Because Protestant England did not believe in Catholic saints, the rituals traditionally associated with Halloween were originally associated with Guy Fawkes Day on November 5th!

Remember, remember the 5th of November...and while you are at it, get me a beer!
5.  A Rhode Island man recently claimed the record for world's largest pumpkin, which weighed in at 2,009 pounds (911 kg).  It is the first pumpkin ever recorded to break the one ton mark!  (Sorry, not a Halloween History fact; being a Rhode Island native, I had to brag!).

6.  Halloween is not a universally celebrated holiday (France sees it as an American celebration).  In Mexico, the days following Halloween - All Saints Day and All Souls Day - are celebrated as Los Días de los Muertos, the Days of the Dead.  Teng Chieh or the Lantern Festival is how Halloween is celebrated in China. Animal shaped lanterns are hung around houses and in the streets to help spirits back to their earthly homes. 

7.   In 1950, Philadelphia-based trick-or-treaters traded in a sweet tooth for a sweet action. In lieu of candy, residents collected change for children overseas and sent it to UNICEF. Subsequently, the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF program was born.

8.  Bobbing for apples actually started as part of the entertainments of the Roman tradition of harvest festivals that honored Pomona, Goddess of the Harvest.

9.  In most countries that celebrate Halloween, black cats are thought to be unlucky as they are thought to be witch's familiars.  In England, the same is thought about white cats, instead of black cats.
I subordinates to nobody!
10. Legend has it that the jack-o’-lantern began with an Irish man named Jack, who was too stingy to be allowed into Heaven and too much of a troublemaker to join the Devil in Hell. When Jack died, the Devil threw him a lighted coal, which Jack placed inside a turnip he was eating. To this day, Jack continues to use the coal to light his path as he searches for a final resting place.

Gracious thanks to and for their fun facts about Halloween!  Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tazi's Corner #16 - A Plea For Higher Education Funding

Dear Readers:

As you probably know, my Mommie is a returning student at the University of Rhode Island.  I learn a lot from Mommie, sitting on top of her shoulder like a parrot as she tries to type up her homework.  I, too, want to learn as much as possible!

Recently, Mommie wrote a commentary for one of her writing classes, bemoaning the lack of proper funding for Rhode Island's institutes of higher education.  Realizing that Rhode Island is not the only state with this problem - and that this problem complicates the lives of out-of-state students, as well as residents - I decided that her column needed a wider audience.  Because my blog receives thousands upon thousands of more page views than hers (It's true!  I even have more Twitter followers than her) I have decided to post her commentary here in my Tazi's Corner forum.  I will be back next week with my thoughts on what was in my trick or treat bag; in the meantime, please give my Mommie your undivided attention.


In Rhode Island, a College Education Is Worth More than the State Offers
A Commentary by Tazi-Kat's Mommie

Talk is cheap. So is the Rhode Island State Budget Committee, at least from the point of view of a student at a Rhode Island public college or university. The Providence Journal recently reported that over the past five (5) years state aid to higher education operating budgets has been cut 30%, while expenses have risen 47%. Left with a combined average of 31% of operating expenses being covered by state aid, the Community College of Rhode Island; Rhode Island College; and the University of Rhode Island have been set adrift in a sea of financial turmoil, their only lifeline the tuition and fees that students pay to attend – tuition and fees that has been outpacing the rate of inflation for the past two decades. Why should this matter concern Rhode Islanders as a whole?

According to the Providence Journal’s “Reinvent Rhode Island” series, “Rhode Island employers are having difficulty finding employees with the skills needed for high-tech industries”. The chatter one hears coming from the General Assembly’s chambers suggests that the goal is to market Rhode Island as a highly skilled hub – the Information District, as it has been called. I cannot be the only one who sees a large disconnect between what is proposed and the reality that exists, can I? The one way to close this gap is the completion of a higher and/or specialized education, but Rhode Island citizens are being priced out of learning these skills due to the ever increasing costs of higher education that are a direct result of constant cuts to the same. We can no longer afford to put off funding higher education in Rhode Island; the Day of Reckoning has arrived.

Last year the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education (RIBGHE) chose to freeze out-of-state tuition at our colleges and university in order to avoid losing the students who pay this higher tuition rate. However, to cover the rising costs of education in the face of a short budget, in-state tuition was raised considerably for the 2012 – 2013 academic year – 9.5% at the University of Rhode Island; 7.5% at the Community College; and 4% at Rhode Island College. The New England Board of Higher Education reports that these increases come on top of tuition increases already made in recent years, resulting in an average tuition increase of 47% at the four-year schools from 2006 to 2011. Institutional records show that at CCRI, a two-year college, tuition has also increased by 47% over the same time period.

How is it possible that costs have risen 47%, tuition has increased 47%, state aid has been cut by 30%, and yet the colleges and university are not operating in a deficit? The answer is simple: class offerings have been reduced, class sizes have been enlarged, and student services have been cut. The result of these measures has been devastating to the state of public higher education in Rhode Island, with students being shut-out of necessary classes, due to a lack of availability, and receiving less personalized attention from faculty and academic support staff. Students are paying more and receiving less.

There are those who would argue that tuition increases are unavoidable yet, as has already been stated, the increases that have been implemented have far outpaced the rate of inflation; those who employ our state’s public college students did not offer 47% pay increases to help cover the added cost of their employees’ education. In fact, with the Rhode Island economy as depressed as it is, Rhode Island employees have been lucky to see raises at all.

Considering the changing demographic of our state’s college students, it cannot be assumed that students can fall back on their parents to assist them with the increased costs of attaining a college degree or vocational certificate; demographic breakdowns show that an average of 25% of our state college students are over the age of 25 (9% of URI enrollment, 40% of CCRI enrollment, 25% of RIC enrollment). Many of our state’s public college students are supporting families of their own. If the choice comes down to paying the rent or paying tuition, education loses. In a case such as this the Rhode Island economy loses as well, in the form of fewer employers choosing to locate within our borders. Even the most high-tech Engineering firm still needs Receptionists; Administrative Assistants; Sales and Marketing Reps; Security; Housekeeping, and other middle and lower-skilled personnel. This is in addition to industrial supplies needed to run the business, contracts that would be awarded to other local businesses.

Although it sounds cliché, there is much truth to the saying “If you build it, they will come”. The time has come for Rhode Island to build its economy by building its workforce. An investment in higher education will bring this to pass. RIBGHE recently announced its decision to hold the line on tuition for the upcoming academic year, but this decision must be accompanied by a sizable increase in state aid at a time when the governor has requested sizable budget cuts. Rhode Island’s State Legislators have proven that they can talk about the economic problems our state is facing; the time has come for them to show the people that they can do more than pontificate by providing a workable solution, starting with increased aid to higher education. As of this writing, Rhode Island ranks 48th out of 50 with regard to state tax dollars allocated (per student) to fund public colleges and universities.

It is short-sighed and self-centered to suggest that students who seek a higher education pay for it without state assistance. How many people are willing to purchase a home in an area where paved roads and city services are not a part of the package? How many homeowners would be willing to take out a mortgage if the interest on that mortgage was not tax deductable? These allowances are a form of government assistance to those who seek to achieve the American Dream, a dream that is more likely to be achieved through higher education. Just as homeowners pay taxes to pay their fair share of municipal costs, students also pay taxes with the expectation of receiving state-sponsored services in return. Just as home ownership improves the economy of a community so does higher education.

In the past, bond issues related to the funding of higher education have passed with an overwhelming majority of the electorate’s approval [Ed. Note to RI Voters: Gaige Hall looks like a pre-historic, crumbling dump!  Vote YES on Question #3!]. However, like student loans, bond money must be paid back with interest. We as a state must show good financial sense and fund our institutions of higher learning through proper budgeting, not borrowing , which in turn will have both immediate and long-term ripple effects for our state college students, starting with a lower student-debt load upon graduation. I plead with you as a Rhode Island citizen to write to your state legislator and demand an increase in funding to our state colleges and university. The future job that is created as a result of this investment just may be your own.

The writer is a 1997 graduate of Rhode Island College and a 2010 graduate of the Community College of Rhode Island, where she is also employed part-time. Tazi-Kat's Mommie is scheduled to complete her Rhode Island higher education hat-trick in 2013, when she graduates from the University of Rhode Island.

Tazi-Kat's Mommie wrote this commentary for her Public Writing class (URI Writing 303). The views expressed in it are her own, and have in no way been endorsed by her employer or by the University of Rhode Island; just by Tazi-Kat.

Community College of Rhode Island Annual Tuition and Fees [1986 - 2012]. Web.  Rep. Warwick: Community College of Rhode Island, 2012.
Jordan, Jennifer D. "Higher Education Board Wants to Freeze Tuition at RI Public Colleges." The Providence Journal 28 Sept. 2012, sec. A: A1+. Print.
"The Numbers." The Providence Journal. Providence Journal Company, 01 Nov. 2011. Web. 01 Oct. 2012.
"Rhode Island College College Portrait." Rhode Island College College Portrait. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. 
Tuition and Fee Rates at New England’s Public Colleges and Universities, 2006-07 through 2011-12. Web. Rep. Boston: New England Board of Higher Education, 2011.
"The University of Rhode Island College Portrait." The University of Rhode Island College Portrait. Web.  N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2012.
Who Do We Serve and How Do We Perform: It’s About Choices. Web.  Rep. Warwick: Community College of Rhode Island, 2012.

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tazi’s Corner Issue #16 – Binders Full of Women…And The Men Who Could Not Find Them

[Ed. Note: Scroll down the page for a clip and serve Paw Slap of Disgust to share with someone who richly deserves one!]

Dear Readers,

The other night I got stuck watching the Presidential debate.  I had no choice – my Co-Mommie was giving me snuggles when it came on the TV. There are few things for which I will prematurely end my snuggle time; food is one of them, politics is not.  I was happy that I tuned in because it gave me a chance to exercise my Paw Slap of Disgust – something one reader wrote to tell me I was not using enough lately!  I guess my yoga sessions are working.

Overall, I give the debate three Paw Slaps of Disgust on a scale of 1 to 5; but this is only because it looked like Mitt Romney and President Obama were about to start throwing punches at each other.  Now THAT would have made for a memorable debate!  As it is, I was half asleep from the quality snuggle I was getting when I heard a comment about how Romney went out in search of women to serve in his cabinet and found “binders” full of them.

Binders full of women?  How large were these binders that they were able to fit a full-sized human being, let alone several of them?  (Were these binders comfortable?  Are they the latest attempt at a solution to the housing crisis?  I need to know!  I am always looking for a new place to nap!).  However, of larger concern to me is this: WHY were these women not a part of the Romney Administration’s initial recruitment efforts?  Romney himself said they were as qualified as any man who had applied for the available cabinet posts, so why were these women a part of the second wave of recruitment but not the first?

As a cat, I spend a lot of time planning world domination – write in ­Tazi-Kat for President 2012 – and as a part of this planning I must spend a lot of my time observing humans while pretending to nap.  One of the more important things I have noticed is that politicians like to say things that voters like to hear…but then they surround themselves with people who reveal more about them than the politician would like.  I am not talking about extremes like President Obama and Reverend Jeremiah Wright – although this could be a good example – I am talking about the masses that make up a politician’s team, from his or her advisers straight down the campaign volunteers.  Who are these people?  How do they think, feel, and behave?  Most importantly, what kind of effect do they have on the important decisions that the politician will make?  In the case of Mitt Romney, I find myself questioning what kind of steering committee chooses only men to fill Cabinet posts. 

To his credit, Mr. Romney asked the same questions as I.  How come there are no women among the candidates?  If only men were found to be qualified to fill these positions, why is that so?  Were no women interested in working in politics?  As it turns out, there were “binders full of women” who were both qualified to serve and interested in serving in their state government – the problem was that these career women were still expected to be at home to serve the domestic needs of their families.  This conflict of interest is what disqualified them in the eyes of Mr. Romney’s people. 

Mr. Romney, at this point I would like to offer you my latest free product – a Print and Serve Tazi-Kat Paw Slap of Disgust!  It is extra large to make the printed version easy to read.  Please print several copies and hand one to each and every member of your Cabinet Search Team; the people who could not find one woman both qualified and interested in serving in your Cabinet. 

Just print, cut, and serve!
Maybe you do not realize it, but surrounding yourself with chauvinists leaves people questioning your own character.  Points to you for recognizing chauvinism and seeking to squelch it, but by keeping the chauvinists on board the only lesson you are teaching is that you value the importance of appearing to be politically correct.  You once said that you “like being able to fire people” for bad service; well, here’s your chance.  It’s time to ditch the backward thinking advisers who believe that a woman’s place is in the home first and the political world second, if at all.

I do believe that Mr. Romney is forward-thinking when it comes to accommodating the needs of women who must balance both family and career.  It makes me happy to see that he understands that not every person can sell their soul to the company store – regardless of their sex.  I hope that Mr. Romney allows his male employees to leave work at 5:00 PM so that they may go home to have dinner with their family or to catch their child’s Little League game.  I also hope that Mr. Romney is not pandering to women in the hope of securing their vote; I hope that he considers surrounding himself by forward-thinkers that realize that a woman can have both a career and a family at the same time, but only if they receive the support of their partners.  Most of all I hope that, if elected, Mr. Romney learns how to communicate a thought more clearly.  Binders full of women?  Bill Clinton must be drooling…


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Man Needs To Learn That Depression Is A Full-Time Disability

Dear Tazi:

I have the opportunity to take a cross-country road trip with some friends who are in college, and I would love to go!  I have always dreamed of driving down Route 66 and having an adventure with my best friends.  We would leave the day after Christmas and return home four weeks later after driving though New Orleans, Dallas, Las Vegas, and other cool places. 

The problem with the plan is that I am on disability benefits for depression and am required to meet with my counselor on a weekly basis.  I have told my counselor that a road trip would be therapeutic for me and would be a huge help to my depression, but he doesn’t believe me and refuses to sign off on my plans.  I can go without his permission, but I am afraid that he will report me to the state and I will be dropped from disability when my case comes up for review this spring.  Why can’t people see that just because depression keeps me from holding down a job it doesn’t keep me from trying to find happiness?  Depression is an invisible disability.  Just because I look okay doesn’t mean that I am!  Can you give me some words of advice that would convince my counselor to let me bail on my daily life for a few weeks?  I honestly think this trip will help to cure me of my blues.

Easy Rider

Dear Easy Rider:

No.  What I can provide for you is a map of Route 66, and you will notice that it does not run through “New Orleans, Dallas, Las Vegas, and other cool places”. 

From what I have been told, Amarillo is kind of cool...
If you are on disability for depression it means you have a chemical imbalance in your brain that affects your ability to feel joy and/or motivation of any kind.  The fact that you are actively looking forward to going on a road trip with friends – to the point where you are seeking official permission from your counselor – tells me that your counseling and medication is helping and that your depression is not as severe as it once was.  I am not saying it is not severe enough to keep you on disability – that is for your counselor to decide – but having extensive personal goals that you feel ready to accomplish, such as a cross-country road trip, does not bode well for your future on disability. 

Since your counselor is advising against this trip, I think that you should follow his advice and not plan on going; as he is the one who evaluates your depression on a weekly basis you may want to follow his advice – even when you don’t like it.  To go on this trip against medical advice could result in devastating results for you and for your friends, who would have to deal with any fallout that would occur if you had any kind of medical complications.  Be a true friend and don’t risk ruining their good time.  There will be other opportunities for road trips once you are medically cleared to make one.

No snuggles for you!

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mother-In-Law Wants Grandchildren ASAP, Reacts Badly To News Of Infertility

Dear Tazi:

My mother-in-law is driving me crazy!  I am sure you hear that phrase a lot; can you stand one more letter on the woes of a monster-in-law? 

My husband and I have been married for several years and have yet to have children.  During the first years of our marriage this was our choice – we wanted to save money and establish ourselves as a married couple before becoming parents – but now our child-free life has turned into a childless one, much to our dismay.  Thinking we may have waited too long to start “trying” my husband and I have both had fertility testing.  The results showed that my husband has a dreadfully low sperm count, and that our dream of starting a family will most likely have to be fulfilled through adoption.  We are adjusting to the idea and considering all of our options, including foster parenting, before making any decisions.  We know that adopting a child is not like adopting a pet!

Here is the part where my mother-in-law comes into the story: From the moment we returned from our honeymoon she has been pestering us for grandchildren.  I am serious!  She actually met us at the airport and asked me if I was pregnant yet or if I had just let myself go now that I was married.  Tazi, my stomach looked the same as it always had!

During the first year of our marriage every conversation with “Thelma” revolved around how to get pregnant – including the best sexual positions for fertilization!  This was NOT something I cared to discuss with my mother-in-law, but whenever I told her so she would get in a tiff and tell me that grandchildren were her “God-given right” and that she had every right to instruct us how to provide them.

Over time, Thelma let up on her verbal demands for grandchildren and instead tried scare tactics and guilt, suggesting that by the time we had children she would be too old or too dead to enjoy them; or that I would be too old to have a healthy baby.  Up until we started trying I was able to tune Thelma out, but now…

Tazi, Thelma thinks her son walks on water.  It tore my husband and me apart trying to decide whether or not to tell his mother we are infertile, but we finally did because of her hurtful barbs towards me.  When we did tell Thelma that we could not have a family through natural means she accused me of “wasting all of her son’s good sperm” and leaving “the duds” behind.  Could this woman be that ignorant in the ways of the world?  Or is she just lashing out at me in anger because she refuses to see any imperfection in her son? 

My husband insists his mother does not understand how the male reproductive system works and has asked me to explain it to her (he is too embarrassed to do it himself).  I say that Thelma knows perfectly well how the male pipes work and that talking to her about it will just set me up for more of Thelma’s abuse, which I am sick of taking.  My husband and I have agreed to listen to your advice and do as you suggest.  So, Tazi, what do you suggest?  And I mean in addition to a Paw Slap of Disgust for my mother-in-law?

Plumbing Problems

Dear Plumbing Problems:

Please excuse me while I go wash out my ears with lye soap!  You might want to do the same to get the sound of your mother-in-law giving you advice on the best sexual position to conceive.  It is obvious that Thelma has had her heart set on having grandchildren for a very long time, so it is not you that she is upset with but the situation as a whole; you are just the target of her frustration, and maybe even sadness.  You do not mention if Thelma has any other children – or should I say, grandchildren providers – but if her son is her only hope for grandchildren and/or hope for carrying on the family name this puts additional stress upon Thelma’s hopes, and thus additional pressure on you to fulfill them.

I do not believe that Thelma has no knowledge of how the male reproductive system works; I think she is just so disappointed by your devastating news that she lashed out irrationally.  Haven’t you ever said something that makes no sense while in a fit of anger? 

Do I think that Thelma is undeservedly angry with you?  Yes, but she needs to be angry with someone and from the sound of your letter she would never make her son the target of her wrath.  Because of this, your husband needs to be the one who talks to his mother.  Your husband must be the one who explains to his mother that it was a mutual choice to wait to have children; that you were not the one holding all of the power in the matter of reproduction.  Most importantly, your husband needs to explain to his mother that although he is disappointed about not being able to father a biological child, he does not harbor ill feelings towards you for wanting to wait to start a family – that his low sperm count existed years ago, just as it exists now.  I also suggest that your husband have this conversation in private with his mother, so she can mourn her loss (and yes, it is a loss) without having to resist the urge to lash out at you.

I am heartened to see that you understand all that goes into adopting a child, and that you realize that a child is not a pet; you cannot return a child if you tire of caring for him or her, or if it becomes inconvenient for you to be a parent.  Although foster parenting is a wonderful calling, be certain to explore your reasoning for doing it; do you seek to make a difference in the lives of children in need or are you seeking to window shop for just the right adoptee?  Not all children in the foster care system are put up for adoption; in fact, the ultimate goal of foster care is to eventually see the children reunited with their birth parents or blood relatives, whenever that is possible.

I wish you luck in your difficult situation and hope that the lines of communication between you and Thelma can clear to the point where you understand each other’s motives.  I am hesitant to give her a Tazi Paw Slap of Disgust because, quite honestly, I think she is already hurting enough.  However, if you want to give her one yourself I will provide one to pass along:

Print, clip, and give to someone who richly deserves it!

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tazi's Corner Issue #15 - Autumn Appreciations

Dear Readers:

Autumn is here!  Or fall, if that is what you prefer to call it; regardless, the season has arrived!  Being a cat, this is my favorite season of the year.  From the grumblings I hear from humans, autumn also sounds like the most under-appreciated time of the year.  I have heard many complaints about how the days are getting shorter (more time for naps!) and the cold weather is coming.  This may be true, but the cold weather is not here yet, so let’s enjoy the beauty of autumn while we can!  To help you appreciate the wonders of this season, I will walk you through my day, so you can see it from your cat’s point of view:

5:30 AM – I have to wake up my Mommie!  She needs to be at work by 9:00 AM, which means she only has three hours to get ready.  She doesn't need nearly this much time, but that is beside the point; the truth of the matter is that I want my morning treat and some outside time!  An autumn sunrise is a cornucopia of color and I do not want to miss it! 

5:35 AM – Loud, obnoxious meowing has not worked in waking Mommie; maybe if I sit backwards on her chest and whack her in the face with my tail a few dozen times. 

5:45 AM – I seem to have angered this slumbering beast.  I will let her sleep a little while longer and amuse myself by looking out the window.  It is still dark, but I can see in low light.  I like the autumn dark!  There is a crisp coolness about it that I can feel through the window glass.  It makes me want to snuggle into a blanket and watch as the world goes by me.  I am so relaxed; maybe Mommie has the right idea by sleeping in…

6:45 AM – I will wait no longer!  I walk up and down on top of Mommie until she gets up out of bed and feeds me!  Doesn't she realize her purpose in life is to take care of my every need and to indulge my every whim?
When training your human, consistency is key!
6:50 – Temptations treats at last!  Ahh…I must now supervise Mommie as she posts my column to the social networking sites.  No offense, but I cannot trust humans to do things right without my corrective paw by their side. 

6:55 AM – Outside time!  I slowly poke my head out of the door as my Co-Mommie stands there impatiently asking me if I want in or out.  Why does this have to be an either/or kind of thing?  Can’t I do both at the same time?

7:00 AM – Hide under the deck and scan the area for predators…and my overly-persistent lady friend.  Doesn’t she understand that I am not interested?  Once the coast is clear, I will be on the prowl!

7:01 AM – 8:00 AM – I am on the prowl!  The smell of dead and dying leaves is in the air….and is that a hint of sage?  Mommie’s herb garden is fighting the changing weather.  The leaves are on the ground now, and they are all bright yellow, red, and orange – my black fur would look so sexy against those vibrant colors!  Maybe I will hide in a pile of them and take a quick nap, if I have time. 

"Right Said Fred" was wrong!  Nobody is too sexy for their cat!
Oh, look!  A pumpkin; or as I like to call it a squirrel trap!  Silly things chew a hole in the shell and climb right inside of it!  I wonder what I would do with those things if I ever caught one.  Probably give it to Mommie.  I would put it right on her pillow so she would be sure not to miss it!  This pumpkin must still be fresh; I can’t smell much through the shell.  In a few weeks the scent of pumpkin will permeate the air.  Too bad you humans will be unable to smell it, what with your inferior olfactory systems!  What was that?  Is that a toad over there in the tall grass?  I must investigate!  I will be careful; last week a hawk tried to drag me off but I was too heavy…maybe I should talk to Mommie about the evils of this diet she has me on – skinny kitty = raptor prey!  Is that Mommie’s voice?  Is she calling me to come in already?  Uh-oh, she just called me a “petulant kitty” and told me she will “slap the black out of me” if I don’t get in the house RIGHT NOW!  I’d better…oh, look!  A chipmunk!  I will bring Mommie one as a present to show her how much I love her!  She can’t be angry with me for being late if I come bearing gifts!

8:15 AM – Apparently Mommie CAN be angry with me for being late, even when I come bearing gifts!  How could she not like a live chipmunk?  They are such fun to chase around the house! Why is she letting it back outside?  Now what am I supposed to do all day?  Nap?

8:16 AM – 12:00 Noon – Wow, that was a refreshing nap!  I think I will explore the house to see if anyone left a window open.  If I can crawl through it there will be more time to explore! 

12:15 PM – drat!  The windows are all open but there are screens in them!  *pluck* *pluck* *pluck* These screens are not ripping; they are made with the good stuff!  I can smell a wood-burning stove from somewhere outside.  Why must you torture this kitty so?

12:16 PM – 2:30 PM – Stare out the window.  Is that the Chihuahua next door dressed up in an orange parka?  I hope he is dressed up for Halloween and not to go hunting with Dick Cheney!  I’ll miss you, little guy!  Why you subject yourself to the humiliation of a leash is beyond the power of my understanding.  Oh, I see…because the alternative is a stroller, like the dog coming down the street in one right now.  Isn't putting the dog in a stroller completely defeating the purpose of a taking the dog for a walk?  What’s next, a cat in diapers?
Oh.  I think I may have spoke too soon!
2:30 PM – 5:00 PM – It’s time to change windows.  Looking out the back window, I get a view of cottontail bunnies bouncing from one piece of clover to another.  Their brown fur disguises them well against the dying grass, but their little white bottoms betray their location.  I wonder what I would do with one of those things if I ever caught one.  Probably present it to Daddy (a.k.a. the man formally known as “Uncle”; I’ve promoted him).  Daddy deserves gifts, especially since Mommie doesn’t appreciate my offerings of love.  I will put it right on top of his clean laundry, so he will be certain to find it! 

5:01 PM – After 5:00 already?  Mommie and Daddy will be home soon, and I have been so distracted by the sights of autumn that I haven’t made a lick of progress in my plans for world domination! 

5:02 PM – 5:30 PM – Sit atop my Tower of Power looking down upon my realm.  Co-Mommie has put out candles that smell like apples and cinnamon, two yummy fall scents.  Note to self: do not try to eat the candles.  They do not taste nearly as good as they smell.  When cats rule the world we will rectify this problem.

5:31 PM – Ignore Mommie.  What kind of person abandons the cat all day?  I will find her when I want some kitty snax and parlay her guilt into a tasty treat; but for now, a nap!  I have another busy day tomorrow!

This is but a sample of what my limited range covers!  I have heard that humans get to do things like apple picking, hayrides, haunted houses, leaf peeping, hikes along the Appalachian Trail, bike ride in the autumn air, tailgate at football games…the list of autumn fun is endless! 

I, Tazi-Kat will now do you a favor and end this column here so you can go out and take advantage of all the fun adventure that awaits you!  You can thank me for this generosity by supporting my bid for President of the United StatesWrite in Tazi-Kat in 2012!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tazi's Rules For Successful Writing (As Taught By U of RI!)

Dear Tazi:

I am married to a very successful local author, who has been blessed with enough success that he has been able to quit his day job and work from home as a full-time writer.  Although I am extremely happy for my husband, I am also very jealous.  I, too, am a writer, but not a successful author.  Everything I have ever written, from short stories to a full-length novel, has been met with multiple rejection slips.  Still, I keep plugging on, hoping one day to publish the Great American Novel.  In the meantime, I write copy for a local newspaper.  Our bills are paid and we have money in the bank, but my lack of professional fulfillment is starting to affect our marriage. 

Tazi, I have visited your ghostwriter’s website (I presume she is your Mommie) and was very impressed with the work she has posted there.  Obviously, it is mostly academic, she being a student and all, but it is well researched stuff and very interesting to read – and I don’t even like non-fiction!  Could you tell me her secret to keeping readers interested in what she writes?  It seems to me like my family and friends enjoy what I write at the start, and then lose interest halfway through the piece.  When I ask them what was wrong, they just tell me that they could not follow the story or that my characters lacked depth. 

I wish I had the time to take classes in Creative Writing, but between work and home I do not have the time to commute to the nearest college campus, an hour away from where I live and work.  I suppose it would be an investment in my marriage, but I am afraid the time commitment would leave less and less time available for me to spend with my husband…which right now may be a good thing.  What do you advise, kitty?


Dear Struggling:

I ran your letter by my Mommie, and she thanks you for your praise!  Like all writers, Mommie loves praise.  (I should give her some praise, too!  Praise!  Praise for Mommie!).  The reason why a lot of what Mommie writes is so interesting is because I dictate to her what to say.  That’s right; the secret to my Mommie’s success is that I, Tazi-Kat, let her know when her work is something that should line my litter-box!

Seriously, my input is only a part of Mommie’s academic success as a writer.  In speaking with her about what makes somebody’s writing interesting, we talked of many things (of ships, shoes, sealing wax; of cabbages and kings) and several points that she has learned in school stood out, including:

Rule #1: Write what you know; but know your audience, as well.  Although this sounds simple enough, the truth of the matter is that many writers choose to write about what they find interesting, even though it may not be of interest to their target audience.  Balance is the key to finding joy in success and success through your joy.

Rule #2: Assume that your audience knows nothing about your subject.  Because writers usually write about what interests them – their passion, if you will – a novice mistake is to leave out vital information, assuming it is common knowledge.  By building your audience’s knowledge you can also build their curiosity – and their continued interest in your work.

Rule #3: Write your thoughts, your every thought, and leave the editing for later.  This is what is called "pre-writing" or a “zero draft”.  By spewing everything onto the written page you will be able to clear your head of all the great ideas you are certain will work for whatever it is you are writing and think clearly about the direction in which you want to head.

Rule #4: Let your work mentally marinate and return to it a few days later.  By letting it sit and coming back to edit it a few days later, you will be able to pick through the truly great ideas and leave the so-so stuff behind. 

Rule #5: Make an outline draft of what you plan on writing.  As your story develops, return to the outline and look for places where more detail is needed and decide what will be plugged in where.

Rule #6: Put yourself in your readers’ shoes.  Look at your drafted work with a critical eye and examine it for shortcomings.  Is your plot developed enough?  Does the story flow from one moment to the next with proper use of segue?  Are the characters both interesting and realistic? 

Rule #7: Never submit a first draft for publication; you are only setting yourself up for failure. Once completed, leave each draft for a few days (see Rule #4) and return to it with fresh eyes for a critical review.  You will be surprised at how many edits you will want to make!

Rule #8: Ask for trusted outside opinions on your completed draft.  Give a copy to someone you know is not afraid to offer you constructive criticism on your writing, and what can be done to make it more interesting for the reader.

Rule #9: Be open to heavy edits to your draft.  I understand that your writing is your baby – you created it, you put your heart and soul into it – and edits can sometimes feel like an amputation, but this is the step that separates the successful writers from the hopefuls. 

Rule #10: Take a class – or several classes – in writing and its many genres.  Not only will you be learning from experts in the field, you will also be granted the opportunity to work with other aspiring writers while developing your own professional processes for success. 


P.S.  Big thank yous to Mommie’s Writing Professors at the University of Rhode Island for teaching her all of these important lessons!

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Teenager Needs Help In Seeing Her Own Inner Beauty

Dear Tazi:

I am the youngest of three sisters; two of them are genetically blessed with amazing looks and a fast metabolism.  Guess which one of us got cursed with a thyroid problem?  Obviously me, or I would not be writing to you about my problems.

My sisters are both on the high school dance squad and look amazing in their uniforms; I get to dress up like the mascot to hide my pudginess.  My sisters are both able to go out for ice cream after the football games or to late night breakfasts after night-time events; I have to watch every mouthful that I eat.  My sisters are tall and thin, I am short and chunky.  I could go on and on, but I am sure that you get the point by now – they are the Beauties and I am the Beast!

The worst part of my problem is that my sisters are so supportive of me.  They are constantly encouraging me to workout with them and telling me that it doesn’t matter what I look like on the outside, it is who I am on the inside that matters.  They always include me in everything they do and do their best to boost my self-esteem, but somehow I just feel worse, like I am accepting their charity. 

You have given good advice to lots of people, Tazi.  Do you have any good advice for me on how to feel more accepted and beautiful?

Plain Jane

Dear Plain Jane:

My Mommie has a thyroid problem, and she hates it!  It affects everything from her weight to her mood – especially if her thyroid hormone levels are too high or too low.  Over the years, she has learned to live with it and even joke about it!  If she overindulges at the holidays she blames it on her thyroid and works a little harder to take off the extra pounds, while all her friends bemoan the fact that they ate too much!  

Now that Mommie is approaching middle-age, many of her friends are experiencing metabolic slowdown and must diet for the first time in their lives.  They don’t know what to do!  Mommie coaches them with diet and exercise tips.  What I am trying to say is, it DOES get better! 

Right now, you are a teenager and are going through all of the ups and downs that the teenage years can bring.  You have two wonderfully supportive sisters on your side who want you to enjoy life as much as they are!  
This is Mommie's favorite reminder to always love herself for who she is!
Once you allow yourself to enjoy life, you will find that you feel less down about yourself; once the world sees you for the fun and interesting person you are you will discover that what your sisters say is true – the person you are on the inside is what matters to the people who matter! 


P.S.  Exercising with friends is so much more fun than exercising alone.  Why not give it a try?

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tazi's Corner #14 - Ten Fast Facts About Cats!

Dear Readers,

I am feeling rather egotistical today (no smart comments, please) so I have decided to share some trivia on my favorite topic – the feline species!  Please indulge me this show of ego, and enjoy the following

Ten Fast Facts About Cats – And Tazi – That You May Not Have Known Before!

Cats are lactose intolerant.  From the mighty big cats to the smallest Munchkin, our digestive systems lack the enzyme needed to break it down.  We are also unable to taste sweet flavors, so serving us milk or cream is not necessary to our health; we just like the texture.  Fresh water will do us fine.

We do not like citrus or lavender scents.  If you want to keep a cat from scratching the furniture, spray it with Febreeze upholstery spray in one of these two scents…or both if you want us to really hate you for it.

Cats’ tongues have tiny, little barbs on them which are what makes our tongues feel like sandpaper.

Domestic cats are not native to North America.  We were brought over on the Mayflower by the Pilgrims.

Signs that a cat trusts you: snoring while sleeping (it means we are veeeeery relaxed!) and presenting you our butt, the one spot that has no claws.  If we present you our belly it means we are trying to see if you are trustworthy (one false move and four sets of claws and a mouthful of teeth stand ready to hurt you!)

...and we do mean "maybe"!

     Cats prefer names that end with a long “e” sound….like Tazi!  We also respond to “p” sounds more quickly than other sounds…when we respond at all, that is.

Approximately 20% of cats lack the receptors to experience a “high” from catnip.  Luckily, I am not among them.

All calico cats are female.

There is no such thing are a pure black cat.  Even I have a scant few white hairs on my chest and belly.  (It makes me look like I touched wet paint).

Cats, large and small, walk on our claws not the flats (pads) of our feet.  We are the only animal know to walk like this!

Bonus Fact!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When Unemployed, Expensive Frivolities Must Go On The Waiting List

Dear Tazi:

My Daughter is six years old and wants to take cheerleading lessons like all of her friends.  I have nothing against cheerleading except that the cost is out of my league.  I am a single Mom and am currently unemployed, so every dollar counts!  Cheerleading lessons are $250 for an eight week session, plus the cost of the uniform, which is an additional $65. 

I have tried to tell my little girl that I cannot afford to give her cheerleading lessons, but she responded that I should ask Santa to bring her an early Christmas gift, and if he can’t do that than to give her the gift of cheerleading lessons for the Winter Session instead.  I do not wish to spoil my daughter’s belief in Santa while she is still so young, but how else will I explain to her why she is not going to be getting cheerleading lessons?  She has her little heart set on taking them, and nothing I say will make her see that cheerleading lessons are not in her future.

I have asked my friends and family for advice, but they all tell me the same thing: start cutting back where I can and hope that I find a job soon that pays for my daughters cheerleading lessons.  Tazi, I have tried to cut back by quitting smoking – I have even switched to the generic brand – but my cigarettes are how I relax.  I have already given up Starbucks coffee and am making coffee at home and I cancelled my Netflix subscription.  I don’t think I have anywhere else to cut without affecting our quality of life.  Do you have any suggestions how I can find the money to pay for my child’s cheerleading lessons?

Losing Cheer

Dear Losing Cheer:

Your daughter seems to put an awful lot of faith in Santa to bring her everything she wants – even if it means delivering early.  Is this something she has learned from past experience or is this hopeful attitude something new?  If you have raised your daughter to expect receipt of everything she asks for, I think it is time that she learns what disappointment feels like. 

You are currently out of work and as you say, “every dollar counts”.  Why would you want to spend over $300 on cheerleading lessons?  Furthermore, why does your daughter need a uniform if she is only taking lessons and is not part of a squad?  Broken down by lesson, it comes to around $30 each.  Unless she is receiving private lessons from an NFL cheerleader, I cannot fathom paying so much!  There are more affordable ways to provide cheerleading lessons than through whatever organization is offering them for the price you quoted.  I am certain that somewhere in your town there is an enterprising young cheerleader who would be happy to make a couple of extra dollars by teaching your daughter the basics of cheerleading.  If not, your town might offer them on a sliding payment scale as a part of an after-school program.  I suggest you look into all of your options before buckling to your child’s demands or disappointing her.  There needs to be a middle ground somewhere, even if it means putting off cheerleading lessons until you are fully employed.

Should you decide to further cut your expenses, quitting smoking would be a great starting point.  There should be some kind of “stop smoking” support group in your area; if you need help finding one, the American Lung Association can assist you; there are much healthier – and cheaper – way to relax than lighting a cigarette.  I suggest yoga.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Teenage Embarrassments Are Soon Forgotten, So Tazi Advises Not Dwelling On Them

Dear Tazi:

My life is over!  I know you think I am exaggerating, but I am seriously thinking of asking my parents to send me to private school because I can never go back to my public school again after what happened to me today!

There is the most amazing boy ever in my Science class.  His name is “Mike” and he is the only boy I will ever love, I swear!  He is hotter than Justin Beiber!  Once every few weeks our teacher makes us do a lab assignment and we have to pair up with someone to work on it.  I was assigned to work with Mike so I took extra time on my hair and makeup and made sure my outfit was HOT!  I wore a pair of white skinny jeans with a tight v-neck t-shirt and a pair of Sketchers.  All of my friends said Mike was going to be watching me and not the experiment, which is what I was hoping!  Well, Tazi, my wish came true but not in the way I wanted.  I got my period right in the middle of science class!  I didn't notice because I was too busy watching Mike, and one of the guys sitting behind me made a joke about a “red tide rolling in”.  I had never had my period before, so I didn't know he was talking about me until things got really awkward.  I ran out of the room and to the girls’ bathroom and cried.  A teacher was in there, so she gave me some help and let me wrap her jacket around my waist and walked me to the Nurse’s office so I could call my Mom to go home and change.  My Mom was super excited that I got my period, but I am still super upset.  I went back to school the next day and it felt like everyone was staring at me.  I am afraid to even talk to Mike anymore.  I just want everyone to forget what happened but I don’t know how long that is going to take.  What do you think, Tazi?

Double Red

Dear Double Red:

I am thinking that you should not have been wearing white after Labor Day!

I am also thinking you have experienced one of life’s less pleasant milestones – the surprise visitor.  Being young and inexperienced, I can see why you were unprepared to handle the fall-out from this traumatic event, and yes I can even understand why it was so traumatic.  However, you need to put the past behind you and move forward; you are not the first female this sort of thing has happened to, nor will you be the last.  Why do you think the teacher who assisted you knew exactly what to do to help?

The best thing that you can do to help this whole situation blow over is to do nothing at all.  The more you concentrate on it, the more others will, too.  You may feel like everyone is watching you, but I can assure you that they are not.  Middle-school aged girls are aware that this type of emergency can strike them, too, and know to be sympathetic and not make fun; middle-school aged boys have their own puberty-related catastrophes that they dread and should know better than to tease.  Only the most immature among them will say anything; may karma strike them double!

Extra Snuggles,

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.