R. S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

From Nooz, Our HR Director


Happy Caturday, Remote Staff:

Tennessee “Nooz” Williams, here.

If you follow R.S. Williams’ social media feed, you’ve seen my photo in many Caturday features. Why, yes: I am part-Siamese, thank you. And yes, I am beautiful.

What you may not know, however, is that I’m also Human Resources Director here at the Happy Kitten Cottage. As HR Director, my duties include informing employees when they’re not meeting expectations, and working with them to improve their performance through a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). And boy, have I got a doozie of an employee for you today.

This employee is so awful that I’m breaking confidentiality rules and making this HR complaint public. Pep talks, sabbaticals, extra time on projects, second and third and 47th chances, dire PIPs—nothing I’ve done has helped. I’m hoping that my broadcasting this complaint to the world will at least shame her into improving. Bastet knows nothing else has.

My hope is that she’s not irredeemable. When she’s on point, her contributions to the team are invaluable. When she’s skewing off course, well, that’s when things get complicated.


Date of filing the HR complaint form: 20 September 2016
HR Complaint Form Number: 2016-073-10-00
Full name of the person filing the complaint: Tennessee “Nooz” Williams
Signature of the person filing the complaint: see scanned form
Proof of Identification: on file
Date of birth: on file

Employee status of the person in the organization/institute: Human Resources Director
Nature of the complaint made: Professional
Name of the person against whom the complaint is made: R.S. Williams, VP Creative Operations

The main points of the allegation:

  1. Lack of work production noticed over the past three months. Employee’s time appears to be spent mostly with dogs (!), surfing Pinterest, or playing guitar. When questioned about these actions, employee states that this is the only way she can “get to the Ryman.”
  2. Employee behavior has become more eccentric. Empty bottles of Belle Meade bourbon have been found scattered around employee’s work space, and employee appears to be impaired during work hours. When questioned about wearing a tank top with a chintz robe and diamonds, employee replied, “I woke up like this.”

The effect on the person filing the complaint:

  • Staff is awakened at all hours of the day and night with employee’s behavior. Lack of creative work produced directly decreases revenue and increases catnip use among staff.

Any other relevant information:

  • Employee has received paints and canvases from sister company in Colorado and has not yet experimented with them.

Signature of the authority with official seal: see scanned form

At this point, I can’t say whether I’m going to fire R.S. Williams. Yeah, she’s doing a crappy job of writing and taking photos these days, but she’s also my, uh, Mama. She took me in four years ago, when some neighborhood kids brought me to her door. I was just eight weeks old, bony, and surviving on squished birds I found in the middle of Clark Street.

And even if she’s not making as much art as I think she should be—and she should be—she’s still the one who scoops my litter box and puts food in my bowl. I tell ya, it’s hell being the head of HR in this place. You get to know your employees, and you grow to love them, and then you feel awful for thinking about firing them when they might really, really need it.

Anyhow, if you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to contribute to Happy Kitten Cottage upkeep, please visit R.S.’s PayPal link. Be sure to include a note telling her to sober up, put down that guitar, coordinate her damn outfit for once, and get to churning out the good stuff.

Thanks for reading, everybody. Hope your Caturday is a great one.

Tennessee “Nooz” Williams

P.S. If you go to the PayPal link and include a note with your contribution, DO NOT tell her I sent you. She’ll know something’s up, for sure, and then I’ll have to put her on another PIP.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

NOTE: HR report template from Sample Forms


Fresh Alabama


Wedowee, Alabama – 19 September 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


You Lucky Dog

All my life, I’ve loved cats. Since 1996, I’ve lived with them full-time. And while I liked dogs just fine, I never thought I’d become a “dog person.” Don’t get me wrong: I had nothing against dogs. They just weren’t what I thought of as “my kind of pet.”

Thank goodness all that changed one day in May 2009.

Enjoying the long break between the end of spring semester and the start of summer classes, I was relaxing at home. My date was supposed to pick me up at 11:45 to go to lunch. When he didn’t arrive and hadn’t called, I began to worry. Finally, he drove up just after noon. “Sorry I’m late—but I’ve got a good reason. Come look!”


And there, in the floorboard of the truck, sat the saddest, sickest puppy I had ever seen.

The puppy was maybe eight weeks old, at most. We could see his ribs, spine, and hips through his skin. A strange mass protruded from the side of his abdomen. Fleas swarmed all over him. And the stomach-twisting smell came off him in huge waves—a horrible combination of grease, dirt, sweat, and feces. Mange had robbed him of almost all his fur, leaving in its place a semi-oily yellow crust an eighth of an inch thick in places.

“Where did you find him?” I asked.

“He was sitting on the double-yellow line in the curve on Swift Street,” my sweetheart said. “Somebody must’ve left him there. I almost didn’t see him. Had to swerve, and just about ran over him. But I looked up in the rear-view mirror, and my heart just broke. I couldn’t leave him. When I put him in the truck, I told him, ‘You’re not gonna die today, buddy, and you’re not gonna die like this.'”

When we arrived at the vet clinic, even Dr. S was surprised. “I’ve been in practice for thirty years, and this is one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen.” Doc diagnosed him with mange and started the weeks-long series of ivermectin shots that would bring the little dog back to health. He gave the puppy a worm tablet, and advised me to wear rubber kitchen gloves: “Don’t bathe or pet him with your bare hands until he’s completely over the mange. Too easy for you to accidentally rub your eye and wind up with a bad infection.”

Doc also prescribed a liquid antibiotic for what he thought might be an internal abscess poking out of the puppy’s side.  He also gave us some unusual advice on dealing with the puppy’s mange: “Bathe him every other day in warm water and Dawn dish liquid. Flea shampoo will just burn his skin, it’s so raw right now. But Dawn will help dissolve the crust a little faster.”

We paid our bill and left. As we sat in the truck and stared at the adorable little dog curled up on the floor mat, my fella asked, “Do you think we should take him to the pound?”

“No,” I said. “They’ll euthanize him. He’s in really bad shape.”

“But I can’t take him home. Not with my own dog so sick, and maybe about to have surgery again.”

I nodded. “I’ll keep him, for now. I’ve got an old plastic storage tub he can sleep in, to keep him safe.”

“With all your cats? Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that I had to do something, anything, to help this puppy. “Just give me a little while. I’ll figure something out.”

A couple weeks later, we’d named the little dog Lucky. That’s what he was, after all. And he was still at my house, slowly healing, though hating baths with every ounce of strength he had. He was even getting along with the cats. That last was a huge surprise, at least to me.

But by the time Memorial Day Weekend arrived, I had a problem. I had a mange-covered puppy who still wasn’t healthy enough for routine puppy shots—and I was going to Nashville on a faculty research trip. No kennel in town would touch Lucky. He couldn’t be around other dogs until he was fully healed.

Which left me with only one choice.


Plastic tub, rubber kitchen gloves, and all, I took him with me. Lucky and I spent four days and three nights enjoying the bright lights of Music City.

It was on the way to Nashville, though, that I knew something in me had changed.



We stopped for a play break in Columbia, Tennessee. Not too far from the local Waffle House, there’s an old church cemetery alongside Interstate 65—the ideal place for a small, sickly dog to pee. As I watched Lucky sniff and roll and bark his frail little bark and try his best to wrench the chew toy from my yellow-rubber-gloved hand, I wept, and said out loud, “You’re my dog. I love you. And I’m keeping you.”

Seven years on, he is still my dog.
A handsome, well-upholstered one at that.


Lucky’s starting to get a little gray on his muzzle. Since he’s part basset hound, he’s had to contend with arthritis much earlier than most dogs (or humans) ever do. Check out the rusty brown fur and purple-spotted tongue. That’s the Chow in him. When he’s thinking of getting into mischief—say, sniffing a cat’s butt, or running after another dog, or spying a week-old dead armadillo just ripe for rolling in—he gets the wrinkly Chow forehead, too. He’s my favorite furry 62-pound coffee table, my rusty-brown Low Rider.

He is also one of the best things that has ever happened to me. And while his name is Lucky, I believe I’m the lucky one here. He has shown me flat-out, unashamed, unconditional love. He has shown me how to trust in the unknown, just as he somehow trusted me in those difficult first weeks after he came to the Happy Kitten Cottage. Every day, he makes me laugh. He shows me how to live in the Now, how to enjoy every moment as it comes.

I’m not just a “dog person.”
I’m Lucky’s forever person.
And he is my forever dog.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Wednesday Photo: 9/21/16


“Late Night, Lower Broadway”
Nashville, Tennessee – 19 September 2015

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Ask: Or, What Do You Even Title a Post Like This?


One of the best things in my life is how often people write to say how much my work means to them. “Waking up to a new photo from you always makes my day,” they tell me. Or, “Your posts give me the courage to keep going when things look bleak.”

When I read messages like these, I remember that what I do is important. With words and images, I send a little beauty into the world when we least expect it. In a time when the easy choices are cynicism and detachment, it’s an honor to create something real, something vital and true, that people enjoy. I’m glad my readers look forward to seeing new material from me three or more times a week.

Constant creation is a full-time job. For the last five years, I’ve worked steadily to make the best art I can. My audience found me, thank goodness, and embraced what I do. I’m fortunate to be able to consider so many new directions for my work. Private coaching, writing workshops, a one-woman show, podcasting, fashion tips . . . lots of interesting possibilities. And that’s not even counting my main work: writing. This novel won’t write itself. Nor will those articles, photos, and poems just POOF! appear out of nowhere. (Nor would I want them to. Making them myself is a lot more fun.)

The other day, I realized I’ve reached an important moment. I’ve done all I can to get to this point. Now’s the time when I need to ask for help.

Ask. Just three letters long, it’s a simple yet terrifying little word. Hell, it terrifies me right now, as I write this post and explain what’s next. I’ve got a novel to finish. I’ve got photos to take, and so many creative decisions to set in motion. In the middle of all this, readers need new material. And I’ve got to keep the lights on, the bills paid, the critters (and me!) fed and housed.

Some folks have wondered if I might set up a patron campaign. You know, something with rewards for a monthly pledge, and that works kind of like the patronage system of the Renaissance (except without all the Medici intrigue, espionage, and murder). Yes! This idea is finally in process. I should have it set up in another few weeks.

In the meantime, I’m in need of a little boost while in between projects. And so, despite the fear and hesitance I feel about that three-letter verb, I’m asking my readers for a little boost.

If you enjoy what I offer and would like to send a little something my way, you may do so via my PayPal link. I appreciate every contribution, no matter the amount. (For example, $5 buys 10 cans of cat food. Happy cats make for uninterrupted writing time.) If you can’t help right now, no worries; just keep spreading the word by liking and sharing my posts on social media.

I am honored to have so many loyal readers. Thank you for your unflagging support. You are the best. And I can’t wait to show you the new things unfolding in my studio.


Photo: “Self Portrait in Back Yard, No. 3” (LaGrange, Georgia – 9 September 2016)

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Hillside Monday: 9/19/16


“Magnolia Leaf with Rain Water”
LaGrange, Georgia – 5 May 2013

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Permanently Parked


Heard County, Georgia – 10 May 2014

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Wednesday Photo: 9/14/16


“Sunset, Ringer’s Old Store”
Carroll County, Georgia – 16 September 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Today’s Epiphany


Today’s epiphany:

My life is not perfect—and I would not ever want it that way.

To have a perfect life would mean I wouldn’t face challenges, wouldn’t solve problems, wouldn’t create art. In other words: I’d be dead.

Thanks anyway. I’ll keep going in the flawed here and now, muddling through it all.

I have mostly stopped dreaming of a time somewhere in the future when I will know exactly what I’m doing, a point at which I will have it all together. It’s incredibly freeing.

These days, I don’t quite as often say things like, “This doesn’t fit the pattern. This isn’t what my life should be. This jukebox is playing the wrong tune.” Ever so slowly, I’m learning that however my life is going is…well, exactly how it’s going. The only actions I can control are my own. Everything else is beyond my influence. The fact that I don’t recognize this particular song doesn’t mean the band made a mistake.

I do not have everything figured out. I never will. My job is to write all this down—the flailing, the confusion, the despair, the hope. This is my truth. It is why I am here in the first place.

Photo: “Self Portrait in Back Yard, No. 1” (LaGrange, Georgia – 9 September 2016)

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Hillside Monday: 9/12/16


“Silk Tree and Sky, Lincoln Street”
LaGrange, Georgia – 5 July 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


This May Not End Well


Featured: Smokey (in chair) and Martha Ann
LaGrange, Georgia – 2 June 2009

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A Night on the Town, Part 1


Columbus, Georgia – 27 August 2016

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Wednesday Photo: 9/7/16


“It’s Lonely at the Cart Corral”
LaGrange, Georgia – 6 July 2015

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Hillside Monday: 9/5/16


“Places to Go, Things to Do”
LaGrange, Georgia – 17 April 2015

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Old Tiles, Sandwich Shop Exterior


Raleigh, North Carolina – 20 May 2016

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Dr. Parker’s Gardenias


When I was a baby, my parents rented a tiny house trailer in Randolph County, Alabama. Their elderly landlord was a retired country doctor. Dr. James Parker* and his wife, Opal*, passed their days tending to their legendary vegetable and flower gardens. Born in the late 1890s, they also shared with my mother many stories from their childhoods.

One thick summer evening, sitting on the Parkers’ front porch, Mom complimented Miss Opal on the waxy, heaven-scented white flowers blooming at the very edge of her yard. “Your gardenias are amazing. Would it be all right if I cut a few to put in a vase?”

“Help yourself,” Miss Opal said. “I can’t stand gardenias. James loves them. I told him if he just had to have them, he needed to plant them as far away from the house as he could.”

This was a new one for Mom. “How come you don’t like gardenias?”

“They remind me of my Uncle Bert*.” Miss Opal looked across the lawn at the hundred-foot row of waist-high, glossy-green-leaved shrubs that separated her yard from the overgrown pasture next door. She sighed, and turned back to Mom.

“Uncle Bert was Mama’s youngest brother. He left for Oklahoma when I was a child—thought he’d try farming out there, where it’s flat and you can see for miles and miles. One day, he was fixing a barbwire fence when a bad storm came up. He didn’t worry, though. The storm was still a good way off. He’d figured he’d patch that fence, get on his mule, and beat the rain back to the house.” She paused. “He didn’t count on the lightning.”

“The lightning?”

Miss Opal nodded sadly. “Lightning struck about a mile away. The charge traveled all the way up the fence to where Uncle Bert had his hands on it. Killed both him and the mule.”

“My God!”

“Even worse,” Miss Opal continued, “was that he had told his wife he wanted to be buried back home, in Alabama. And he died in late June.”

She closed her eyes. “The funeral was open-casket, even though we could barely recognize him. There was this big old burned streak down his face, down into his shirt collar and, I reckon, the whole length of his body.” Miss Opal shuddered. “Took the train eight days to get here from Oklahoma City. His wife didn’t have the money to have him embalmed.  With all that time passing, and the summer heat, by the day of the funeral—Lord, have mercy. They had that church full of gardenias to cover up the smell. It didn’t work.”

“To this day, every time I catch even a little whiff of the blasted things, all I can smell is sickly sweetness—just overpowering summer and perfume and death. I see Uncle Bert again, all burned and purplish-black there in the casket. And I just about faint.” Miss Opal pointed toward the edge of the yard. “And that’s why I made James plant his gardenias way out there.”

*Note: All names have been changed. 

Photo: “Gardenia Ghost No. 2” (LaGrange, Georgia – 6 June 2016)

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Wednesday Photo: 8/31/16


“Pink Petals, Green Marble”
Birmingham, Alabama – 21 March 2015

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Hillside Monday: 8/29/16


“Something (Not) Borrowed”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 July 2015

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Sunset, Yellow Jacket Creek


Troup County, Georgia – 7 October 2014

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Wednesday Photo: 8/24/16


“Waiting on a Train, Part 3”
Anniston, Alabama – 23 June 2016

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


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