Literary Pieces

I didn’t really start writing until I began publishing Houston PetTalk and found I enjoyed it. This is a collection of my writings including essays, poems, fiction, etc.

Why I LOVE Animals: Beautiful Parrots

Posted by on Mar 14, 2019 in Editorial Works | 0 comments

Why I LOVE Animals: Beautiful Parrots

Why I Love Animals is a monthly column published by Michelle Mantor in Houston PetTalk Magazine. Each column focuses on a different species, their value to our environment and what makes them unique in hopes that their future’s are preserved. Photo by Photography By Prudence What I love about animals is how they instill WONDER in me. I can’t really explain the reason why and I’m satisfied not to – I’m ok with just embracing the fact that God gave me a passion and I’m fortunate to have found it after years of searching.  Some of my earliest childhood memories were of my dogs and cats and the feeling that I needed to help them and somehow protect them from the many harms that could (and did) come their way. It was a compulsion in a sense that made me hyper-aware of any animal’s plight. For instance, it was painful for me to see my pets, or anyone else’s for that matter, hurting or not allowed to come inside in the cold West Virginia nights. I felt such anger when the old man next door would kick my dog for daring to come into his yard;  I felt such sorrow when my kittens died of everything from being hit by a car to being killed by the neighbor’s dog. I wanted nothing more than to protect my pets but at a young age, there was only so much I could do.  I lived in a world where i felt misunderstood. Didn’t anyone see that animals have emotions? Didn’t anyone feel their pain? Didn’t anyone see their value like I did? Obviously I still carry that pain or I wouldn’t be talking about it in my mid fifties LOL! So, yes, it is confirmed that I have the animal-empathy gene for sure! The pain still resonates because my love of animals is innate and heartfelt.  Having said all of that, for one reason or another, I didn’t choose a career in animal welfare.  Instead, I got an MBA and went corporate. I slogged through that career path, never feeling quite at home. Then, in 2003, I got my break from the life of desks, spreadsheets, quotas, meetings and mega-egos when the opportunity to publish PetTalk manifested. I had no idea what I was doing. It was a huge learning curve but I took the leap and never looked back. For all of the gratefulness I have in finding this path, I decided to start a column in 2019 about my love of all creatures and to share the unique qualities of many species with you, in hopes that you too will celebrate the value of animals that make our world so interesting, sustainable and beautiful. Fast forward to here and now, as I sit in the presence of this charming Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot and this fantastically beautiful Green-wing Macaw. Their colors are so brilliant and defined, as if drawn by a meticulous artist. Not a single feather is misplaced on the landscape of color variations. Their body is artwork, yet they offer so much more. Macaws, the largest type of parrot, are native to Central America and North America (only Mexico), South America, and formerly the Caribbean. Like other parrots, toucans and woodpeckers, macaws are zygodactyl, having their first and...

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Respect

Posted by on Dec 29, 2018 in Editorial Works | 0 comments

Respect

Respect – as published in December 2018 Issue of Houston PetTalk: Photo by Evin Thayer; LB provided by Mini Pig Rescue of Houston Being a part of humanity is filled with questions – Why are we here? What are we trying to accomplish? What is God’s plan? Why is there evil and pain? The list could go on and on with the BIG questions that drive us crazy because the answers are arbitrary and typically not provable, thus reducing the answers to a matter of faith.  We are barraged with information, hatred, love, cruelty, injustice, good-hearted people, freedom of choice, suppression, abuse, jealousy, heroism and more in this big black cauldron being stirred together in a soup called LIFE. As a people, we have to navigate through it, digest it all and make choices based on our own beliefs and individual situations. Simply put, it can be hard to be a human and live in this world. Some people unfortunately can’t cope and create their own demise. Others struggle but find a way to see a positive outcome and on the whole, seem to maintain a balance. For me personally, the uncertainty in our world and the evil that exists are two of the most disconcerting aspects.  However, there is one element of humanity that I don’t struggle with, I don’t question and that I know for sure: the concept of respect for all things. Between humans, respect for one another is a universal expectation (but that doesn’t mean it actually occurs 100% of the time). There are plenty of examples to point to that defy this basic principle of humanity but for the most part, respect between people exists unless there is a factor of greed or evil present. Moving past respect between humans, the slope gets very slippery. As humans at the top of the food chain and possessing the highest IQ, we have a responsibility to be the stewards of all else including animals, plants and all aspects of our environment on earth and beyond. Just because we CAN disrespect, abuse or misuse something doesn’t mean we SHOULD. The world we have been given is quite spectacular. If you’ve ever stared at Caribbean waters, studied a peacock’s feathers, smelled a gardenia, hiked to a waterfall, witnessed a rainbow, watched horses race across a meadow, been mesmerized by a harvest moon, then you know what I’m talking about. There is so much beauty, innocent life-forms, and extraordinary geological displays that to not steward and protect them is not only disrespectful, it’s reprehensible. I’m not talking about being extreme and being upheld to impractical standards, I’m referring to a basic level of respect for all living things and our environment.  Take LB (short for Little Bit) as an example, who was so gracious to pose with me and underscore my point. He comes from one of the most abused, tortured, misunderstood yet intelligent species on earth…the pig. Many studies have been conducted regarding pigs and it’s no secret among those who care to know the truth that pigs can solve cognitive problems, they display emotions, they have unique personalities, they love to play and they are easy to train. Authors Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and founder of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, and Christina M. Colvin, a professor...

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My Rescue Horse Freedom: Our Journey of the Heart

Posted by on Jan 24, 2018 in Editorial Works | 0 comments

My Rescue Horse Freedom: Our Journey of the Heart

After a year and a half, I finally saw my dream of a Horse issue for PetTalk come true featuring my rescue horse Freedom and our journey together. Many people were instrumental in helping me save him and I hope our story inspires others to rescue any species their hear desires! Read our story in the digital issue of Houston PetTalk Jan. 2018....

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Essay: Vulnerability

Posted by on Dec 31, 2016 in Editorial Works | 0 comments

Essay:  Vulnerability

Michelle Mantor with Jeda as published in December 2016 Issue of Houston PetTalk Magazine. Photos by Evin Thayer. We live in a world that values strength, power, and toughness. Whether it’s a movie with a powerful main character or a parent teaching their young boy to “be tough” with his emotions or the images of muscled bodies in magazine ads, there’s no denying that our culture rewards the idea of strength. Which, in turn, is why it’s so hard for us to be vulnerable. Opening ourselves up to needing something or someone is a scary prospect. If we think about the many lessons we are taught in life, quite a few of them are centered around the theme of self-reliance. Think back to the values that your parents and other teachers have worked hard to ingrain in you – be your own person and don’t be influenced negatively by others, find a way to make enough money so that you don’t have to rely on others for your basic needs, stand up for what you believe even if it’s not the most popular stance, and so on. These are all positions of strength and they are important lessons because they help us make good decisions, encourage us to be self-reliant and basically help us survive in this world. However, as in most things in life, a delicate balance is needed in order for the best possible outcome. In the case of vulnerability, the scales often tip too far to the side of needing to project strength, which isn’t surprising given that the stakes for being weak are quite high in humanity. The unfortunate result of this imbalance is that vulnerability, because it’s viewed as negative, is an emotion or state of being that many people avoid, thus stripping them of some of the most basic connections a human can experience. Vulnerability is that place where we allow ourselves to feel unsure. It’s the place of no guarantees and possibly even pain or rejection. Being vulnerable is asking someone on a date while knowing they might say no. Being vulnerable is telling someone you love them first, not knowing if they will reciprocate. Being vulnerable is trying out for a team or a position knowing you might not get it. Being vulnerable is being a human or pet parent that loves your child or pet so immensely, all the while knowing God could call them away from you at any time. We are so afraid to feel this level of insecurity that we find a myriad of strategies to avoid the feelings. We overindulge in food, we drink alcohol, take pills, shop incessantly and cram our schedules full so that we don’t have time to come face to face with the scary monster called vulnerability. But what do we give up for the attempt at not being vulnerable? We give up the deepest feelings of attachment because we are too afraid of what we will feel like if the attachment breaks. We falsely believe that it’s better not to be “All In” and preserve our heart than to let go of fear and connect as our authentic self to those important beings in our life. To that point, we can take a lesson from our pets about how to love...

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Essay: Friendship

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Editorial Works | 0 comments

Essay: Friendship

Michelle Mantor with Jeda as published in December 2015 Issue of Houston PetTalk Magazine. Photos by Evin Thayer. Meet my new friend, Jeda. As many of you know, I lost my Briard and long-time friend of 15 years, Remy, in 2011. I still miss her and think of her often. Life’s journey offers us hilltops with great highs and valleys with great lows and Remy was steadfastly there for the ride. But once she was gone, daily life just wasn’t as rich. Enter Jeda. Also a Briard, Jeda is quite a character and has carved out her own little piece of my heart. I’m happy to say that we’ve built trust between us and have become friends. That’s what friends do – they make our lives more fulfilled. Can you imagine your life without friends? I’m not referring to acquaintances or relationships that might be characterized as “friends” but are not enduring, meaning with just a small change, the communication ends. Those relationships certainly serve a purpose in our lives working as a secondary support system but I am referring to those friendships that have substance, strength and longevity. I am blessed to have many of these lasting friendships and the cool part is that I keep making more. Life never runs out of people for us to give our love to! The secret to building strong friendships is to be a reliable friend yourself. That means helping a friend in need even if it’s not convenient, listening for hours to their woes, being honest when they ask for advice, being respectful of commitments you make to them, showing them they matter and the most important one in my opinion – don’t forget to be silly and have some fun together! Laughter, before or after the tears, is an essential element of the friendship bond. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out who is a true friend and who is not. I believe there are a few fundamentals to true friendship versus “being friendly”: One is the test of time and the other is sacrifice. In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends. Of all the different types of friends in my life, there is one I never have to question what their commitment is to me – my furry friends. Our pets are in a different category all to themselves. Of course they are not as dynamic in their interaction with us as a human but what giving souls they are! Can you name a time when your pet wasn’t happy to see you? They need our care in order to survive and they realize we are their strongest ally in life. For being their caretaker, we are given devotion and I can’t think of anything I would rather have. Many a word has been written about the human-animal bond as well as why dogs are called Man’s Best Friend. Yes, they are loyal, love us no matter who we are, they have our backs, they have no hate, greed or jealousy, only pure hearts and they love to be part of the pack and socialize. I for one am happy God gave us these authentic little creatures. This holiday, celebrate your friendships, both human and animal. Give your friends your attention and your love....

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Essay: Having Fun

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Editorial Works, Uncategorized Posts | 0 comments

Essay: Having Fun

Michelle Mantor with Neema and Miles at the Houston Zoo as published in the December 2014 issue of Houston PetTalk Magazine. Photos by Evin Thayer. One gorgeous Houston day, I was out playing my favorite sport of tennis with some other ladies. I was having a great time and suddenly I realized I was skipping back to my place to return serve. Skipping! Then I had the thought, “What are you doing? You are way too old to be skipping. That’s for children!” But in reflection. I started wondering why, as adults, are we not supposed to show such frivolousness? Why do we have to behave with such decorum? Somewhere along life’s journey, society teaches us that the silly, fun, spontaneous actions of a child is not appropriate for an adult. If we were to see someone in the middle of a shopping mall turning circles and looking to the sky and then jumping around and sticking their hand in the water fountain, we would deem that person mentally disturbed. But isn’t that a sad thing to think that we must drop our outward sense of childlike fun to show that we are a sane, responsible grown-up? Each of us has a different idea of what we think is fun but that’s what makes people interesting –  the fact that we are different. I, for example, liked to play Barbies with my daughter when she was younger. Unfortunately, she has “outgrown” Barbies and I have to wonder is that because she really doesn’t like to play any longer or because she feels she is too old? Can you just imagine how crazy my friends would think I am if I invited them over to play Barbies? It’s unthinkable! (By the way, that’s one of the little known secrets about being a mom. It gives us a chance to play our old childhood favorites without looking like we are nuts!) Having fun means “to have an amusing or enjoyable experience.” It is good food for our soul to sometimes set aside our more serious concerns, problems and worries to amuse ourselves and give our hearts a reason to smile. For me, going to the zoo and observing animals is fun. I loved feeding the giraffes during my photoshoot. They were not shy about nudging me for more lettuce which of course made me giggle. You can see by the outtakes that I was having a great time! For pet lovers, the free-spirited nature of animals may be one of the reasons that we find their companionship so fulfilling. If you watch your dog or cat (or most animals), you can see them at play essentially having fun. We may wonder why it appears so amusing to go get a ball and bring it back and go get a ball and bring it back and so on but for whatever reason they find it enjoyable. They don’t seem to really care if we think it’s crazy or not. They are just following their instincts, not rules imposed upon them by the judgments of others. And, what I really find fascinating about animals is that they are willing to play most anytime. Short of not feeling well, any of my pets will hop right up and start playing instantly out of a...

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A Force For Good

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in Editorial Works | 0 comments

A Force For Good

…The Ultimate Global Citizen By: Michelle Mantor Photography By Evin Thayer  Sometimes the tumble cycle of life knocks us around a bit. We may become ragged and thread bare from the constant motion and effort to keep up with “the process”. Speaking for myself, I definitely experience life-fatigue now and then. I need to recharge my batteries AND recharge my spirit, that part of me that not only keeps me going but also motivates me to reach higher, burn brighter and spread hope to others. Recently, that inspiration came from meeting John Paul DeJoria, the perpetual entrepreneur that co-founded the mega hair care corporation, Paul Mitchell Systems. From the seriously challenged “tumble-cycle” of his youth to his incredible story of financial and philanthropic success, DeJoria’s journey is a beacon of hope that serves to remind us that we can achieve great things even when obstacles loom large. Like so many events in our lives, meeting John Paul, or “JP” as he is known to friends and colleagues, was not something I sought out but rather it came about through a friend connecting us. Naturally I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting the man whose face I had seen in magazines ads and photos attending star-studded Hollywood events but it wasn’t until I did my research that I discovered the inspirational story behind the man; it wasn’t until I spent a few hours with him at his home in Austin that I realized the profound effect his efforts are having on our world; and it wasn’t until a few days after the interview when I couldn’t stop reflecting on his journey that I realized he had inspired me. My spirit was ready to keep reaching higher, burning brighter and motivating others. I want to share his story with you. Born and raised in what could certainly be called humble beginnings, DeJoria was faced with life’s challenges at an early age growing up in Los Angeles. Destiny’s way of ensuring that he had plenty of entrepreneurial experience, DeJoria started out selling greeting cards at age 9 and delivering newspapers to help out his single mother. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, he would go on to sell insurance, encyclopedias, dictating machines, work as a janitor and pump gasoline. It’s hard to imagine this uber-successful guy being homeless but John Paul found himself briefly without a place to live not once, but twice. He slept in his car and collected bottles to subsist. Not to be defeated and not to be given handouts, he eventually landed a job in the hair care industry where he quickly received a promotion to National Manager of Schools and Chain Salons. After building his expertise in the marketing of hair care products and services in National and VP level positions with several companies, John Paul combined his marketing prowess with the hairdressing talents of Paul Mitchell to launch their now-iconic business, John Paul Mitchell Systems. As with all companies that reach noteworthy status, a clear vision guided the dream – the pair shared a vision to create a company for hairdressers that would provide tools of success for hair care professionals, their salons and the entire beauty industry. Founding the company on just $700 the pair had scraped together, DeJoria and Mitchell put their...

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Essay: Being Thankful

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Literary Pieces | 1 comment

Essay: Being Thankful

Michelle Mantor with  “Remy” – Published in the December 2010 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo by Evin Thayer Well, we’re back! Remy and I are together again for our values feature photo. As many of you know, two years ago when Remy was 13, I thought that would be our last year together so I chose to be photographed with just Remy and not include my two Maltese mixes. Last year, when Remy turned 14, I definitely thought that was the finale and so the little dogs were once again left behind. Look who’s still here at 15! Yes, the little dogs are like “when will it ever be our turn?” but as long as my girl sticks around, I’ll stick by her as my number 1 sidekick. Although I make light about Remy’s perseverance in life, I know that having her by my side is a blessing that I am so thankful for. A 15-year-old Briard is quite extraordinary and I find it ironic because she herself is such an extraordinary dog. I gave thought to writing about perseverance but in the end, I believe Remy’s presence in my life most exemplifies the value of thankfulness: I’m thankful for the wisdom she has taught me…she inherently knows the right thing to do in all situations. I’m thankful for her loyalty…she never gives up on me. I’m thankful for her forgiveness…she doesn’t hold grudges for the walks not taken. I’m thankful for her inspiration…she gives me lots of ideas for the magazine. I’m thankful for her protection…she stands guard to defend me at all times. I’m thankful for her dignity…she is showing me how to grow old with elegance. I’m thankful for her consistency…I know what to expect from her and there is a confidence in knowing something rather than guessing. I’m thankful for her sense of humor…she can turn my tears to laughter with her silly antics. I’m thankful for her attitude…she looks for every opportunity in life to be cheerful. But mostly I’m thankful for her love…she warms my heart, stands by my side, kisses my cheek and feeds my soul. So Remy, I sure hope you surprise me and turn sweet 16. But whatever the future holds, just know that I love you my big girl!...

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Essay: The Value of Nature

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Editorial Works, Literary Pieces | 0 comments

Essay: The Value of Nature

Michelle Mantor with Azi; Published in the December 2012 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo by Evin Thayer As young people, we often underestimate the value of nature. The vibrant colors and patterns in a peacock, the calming effect of morning mist rising from a lake as the sun rises, the simplicity in the design of a daisy…these are all gifts that nature bestows upon our lives but appreciating their value can take many years of living a complicated life before we truly understand the brilliance that is simply…nature. Last year I visited Costa Rica, a country blessed with a plethora of natural resources and beauty – gorgeous beaches, a lush rainforest, fascinating wildlife including colorful parrots and cute monkeys, waterfalls and spectacular sunsets. While there, I also noticed the infrastructure was nowhere near our standards (roads, buildings, etc.) and the locals in the area I visited were living in tiny rundown houses and seemed to have very little economic advantages. And yet they were all smiling, happy and positive in their overall outlook. I spent some time pondering this (I had a lot of time to ponder on a 4 hour bumpy journey to the coast in what would have been a 1 hour drive on a freeway) and I thought about all of the “unnatural” elements that consume our lives in the U.S. like shopping malls, movie theaters, bowling alleys, treadmills, video games, TV and so on. From cosmetic surgeries and injections to diamonds and expensive adornments, our society has a radar focus on plastic, manufactured and synthetic. When I was a kid, I can remember that our entertainment was playing outside with whatever things we could find. We made forts, played stick ball, caught fireflies and tadpoles, picked berries, played with our dogs, created games and road bikes. Essentially, we used the outdoors and nature’s bounty to explore and play. Now, after years of participating in our culture’s move toward gadgetry, multi-tasking, frenzied schedules and indoor entertainment, I’ve come to appreciate and even crave nature. As in most things, balance is key. Being a Libra, I am keenly aware of balance and whenever I feel something in my life has swung too far toward imbalance, I get frustrated and then I realize the reason and work to get back to the “middle”. Yes, we have come to depend on technology to the point that we almost have no choice but to use it otherwise we cannot function effectively in the business world and to some degree our private lives. We marvel at the latest features of the iPhone and stand in line for hours to see a Twilight movie release. And although these are impressive, nothing is more impressive than God’s design of nature. The majestic beauty of this horse next to me, the perfect colors on a Clownfish, the glory of an old oak tree that comes to life again every Spring…these are also things that I hope we never forget to marvel at. Perhaps the Costa Ricans have it figured out. They are still living close to nature without so many unnatural elements pushing through into the relationship. They work with their hands, eat natural foods from their gardens, play outdoors with whatever Mother Nature provides. As another year wanes, it seems “natural” to...

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Essay: Innocence

Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in Literary Pieces, Uncategorized Posts | 0 comments

Essay: Innocence

Michelle Mantor and “Friday” – Published in the December 2011 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo By Evin Thayer As many of you know, I recently lost my beautiful Briard, “Remy” after 15 wonderful years. I had always promised her a 2-page tribute in PetTalk when she passed. Because she lived to be 15, I had to go through shoeboxes of photos to put the story together since there were no digital photos of her early years. As I looked through family photos spanning more than a decade, I experienced many emotions…joy, laughter, sorrow…and the tears to match all those feelings came pouring out. My daughter was with me and she asked, “Mom, why are you crying because of pictures”? It struck me that one of the very reasons I was crying was the quality she was exemplifying at that moment…innocence. Innocence can bring forth feelings of great happiness as well as sadness. As I looked at the photos of my children when they were toddlers with their sweet little faces and cute poses, I realized those days of “young child innocence” were gone and my babies had grown up to nearly be teenagers. Never again would I have that baby in my arms, that small hand reaching up to grab mine to walk with me or the outstretched arms wanting me to pick them up and swing them about. Those thoughts hurt deeply in a way only a mother can know. But juxtaposed to that sadness, was the joy of innocence. I smiled at the photos of my son at his Chucky Cheese birthday party as he fully believed Chucky was a real being. I smiled at the photos of Remy as a young pup exuberant to play the same game of chase over and over. I smiled at my daughter’s innocence of asking why I was crying by the mere simple act of “looking at pictures”. Innocence to me implies a naiveté, a vulnerability that can so easily be harmed or lost forever. When I reflect about my strong feelings toward animal abuse or the pain I feel when I see a stray, neglected dog, I know my passion for helping them is born out of knowing how innocent they are. They don’t have the tools to survive in man’s world and they rely on us to be their stewards. As adults, our innocence is lost. We are full of pretense, racism, insecurities, and falsehoods. Just one look at our society and we see cheaters, phonies and fabrications. From the “reality shows” that are scripted, to artificial body parts to photoshopped images and dishonest politicians, it can make one wary or even cynical. What’s real? Who is honest? Where do I place my trust? When we look at children, we don’t see those impurities. We see pure awareness, honesty and joyous attitudes that are open to possibilities. We see hearts willing to love and accept with no preconditions. I see those same characteristics my pets. And, just like in my children and my pets, I love their innocence and feel great pain if they are mistreated or if they were to lose this wonderful virtue. I don’t think it’s possible for us to back to the state of innocence as an adult, but I think we can...

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