Let’s Talk Passion

Post copyright Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author

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According to Merriam-Webster a simple definition of passion isa strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. 

Can you imagine living with enthusiasm and excitement for everything you do? It would be fun doing the dishes, cleaning house, visiting a sick friend, gardening or just plain being. Perhaps over time, we’ve become frightened of passion, of giving something our all. Maybe we’ve been burned too many times.

The key is, it is our passion and what other people say or do has nothing to do with how we feel inside. If we are frowned upon when we laugh out loud, who ultimately loses if we bow to peer pressure? I’m not advocating doing things that harm others. I’m talking about the reason we get up in the morning, the things that make us happy. Telling the story of the women doctors is a passion. I love speaking and writing about them, and the research is a passionate challenge to me. March 19, I’ll be in Victor, Colorado sharing my passion with others about these women.

I don’t have children, I don’t like snakes, but that does not mean I should keep someone else from being passionate about them. Maybe they don’t like cats. That’s okay. Some people love to sing, others to write music or jokes or books. If we don’t enjoy what we are doing, if we can’t find the passion and excitement, why do we continue? Life is precious, don’t waste it. I’d like to share some of my favorite quotes about passion:

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. Nelson Mandela
Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks. Yo-Yo Ma

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. Martha Graham

and perhaps one of my new favorite:

There isn’t any great mystery about me. What I do is glamorous and has an awful lot of white-hot attention placed on it. But the actual work requires the same discipline and passion as any job you love doing, be it as a very good pipe fitter or a highly creative artist. Tom Hanks

What we are passionate about, I think, helps define who we want to be and our ability to try and get there. So here’s to a life lived with passions, following dreams and sailing our own ships.  I will leave you with a link to a song I’m passionate about. Listen to the words, be inspired and follow that passion. https://youtu.be/jSFLZ-MzIhM

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Originally from the mid-west, Doris now calls the Rocky Mountains her home. Doris is a writer, historian, actor,and teacher. An avid reader Doris loves to spend time in history archives looking for the small, unknown pieces of history. Many times these pieces end up in her stories or poems.  Like her author page to stay on top of her work.  http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL also make sure to check out her haiku and photographs at http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com.

“One Christmas Knight” Medieval Anthology

“Angel of Salvation Valley”





To the Rescue! Part 1

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin


On Sunday I helped rescue: I transported a dog for English Springer Spaniel Rescue of America (Rocky Mountain chapter – there are chapters across the country) to his new, although temporary home. I have served as a transporter for various dog rescue organizations for nearly six years, primarily helping Springer Rescue and Big Dogs Huge Paws (based in Colorado), but I have also transported for Black Dog Animal Rescue (based in Cheyenne, Wyo.) and I’m on the contact list for at least two other groups. I find great satisfaction in helping dogs go from neglect or other difficult situations into new homes, whether those are caring foster homes (temporary) or their loving, permanent homes.

I transported Pepsi, a springer/beagle mix, on Sunday; he had lived with the same family for more than seven years but was kept outside most of his life and the people spent very little time with him; he’s now in foster care with a friend of mine here in Casper. Last year I transported Boone, a senior beagle who found his forever home in Yellowstone Park with an middle-aged couple. And, more than four years ago, I helped Jazmine, a Great Pyrenees mix, get to her new home with a family in Calgary, Canada. Each dog has a story, and I am now a chapter in their life stories – that makes me very happy!








This month is National Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month, celebrated and recognized around the country by animal shelter and rescue groups. Many such organizations reduce their adoption fees or at least take the opportunity to bring greater awareness to the plight of animals in need of loving homes. While touring Best Friends Animal Society & Sanctuary last month, I learned the startling statistic of how many animals die in kill shelters throughout this country. Even though I was aware of the annual statistic (3-4 million), the tour guide bravely broke it down to how many every day: 9,000. NINE THOUSAND dogs, cats, and other creatures (bunnies, guinea pigs, birds) DIE EVERY DAY in kill shelters. Yet, Americans shell out billions of dollars every year – in fact, more than $55 billion! – for their pets: food, vet bills, treats, toys, beds, clothing… Americans who love their pets REALLY LOVE their pets to spend billions of dollars every year on them. That’s so cool! Yet, we let 9,000 die every day in kill shelters. That’s very sad and to me, intolerable. It’s estimated that only 35% of pets in shelters are adopted – why do we think an animal is LESS THAN because it’s in rescue or a shelter? The fact is the #1 reason why animals are at those places is because of their human, not because of the animal; the #1 reason people give for giving up their pet is “I’m moving.” Yet, they move with their child, their car, their furniture … and leave their pet behind.

Best Friends has two significant campaigns: No Kill and No More Homeless Pets. Since October is National Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month, I think it’s a good time to get on the #NoMoreHomelessPets/#NoKill bandwagon and encourage dog adoption. So, I’m taking the stage with this post and asking my friends to join in. Tweet, Facebook, and tout however you can: #NoKill! #NoMoreHomelessPets! #AdoptaDog! #AdoptDon’tShop!

Boone_YellowstoneBoone singing in Yellowstone!


Even if you can’t adopt a dog, cat, rabbit, or other homeless pet, there are many things a person can do to help. Like me, you can transport, or you can donate supplies or volunteer. More about such ways in my next post.

I’ve volunteered and I’ve worked for animal shelters off and on for more than 20 years. Pets are my passion, and I do whatever I can to help. I’m fortunate – I’m a writer, so I can weave my passion into my writing. Whenever I have a book event, I always donate a percentage of sale proceeds to a local or regional animal welfare organization, and I will continue to do so. I’ve participated in animal events as a vendor, selling books and donating back to the group, and I will continue to do that as well.

The dogs’ stories of which I’ve played a part are playing a part in my current writings. I am working on two books that involve dog rescue: an educational/awareness book about dog rescue for children and families – that book idea sprouted from my encounter with Jazmine – and a romance story involving dog rescue (I imagine the hero of my story will rescue the heroine, or vice-verse!). Again, I’m weaving my writing with my passion for pets, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these stories come together. Also, I’ve written articles for our local paper on the various animal welfare groups and I hope to do more such stories in the future. I also write a pet column for different publications and I’ve written for online blogs, including my own pet blog. To me, pet rescue and adoption are vital, for communities, for the animals, and for people, and I’m happy to share my knowledge and passion with others.

How about you? Do you have some type of “rescue” as part of your stories? Or do animals play a role in your books?

Next time, Part 2: Things we can all do to help the animal groups in our area, even if we can’t adopt one.

Learn more companion animal statistics at this website: http://www.aspca.org/about-us/faq/pet-statistics.


Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNookGayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She is the author of five inspirational dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released in August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines and for the Casper Journal newspaper. She pens a pet column for the Douglas Budget and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She volunteers with several pet rescue and animal welfare organizations, and a percentage of proceeds from her book sales are donated to these groups. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.



SageBigAdventureFront-small       SageLearnsShareFront-small      Walking_FrontCover_small     Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final     Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014     Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover

Treasures, Blessings, and Opportunities

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

“….to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” – Mission of National Park Service as ordained by the Organic Act of 1916

Dad and Gayle_CedarBreaksI recently traveled the areas of southern Utah and northern Arizona with my father. We visited five national parks (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and the Grand Canyon) and three national monuments (Cedar Breaks, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Pipe Spring). We experienced sandy deserts, red sandstone cliffs, and high elevation forests, and we absorbed sights wondrous to behold! In those 2,000+ miles we encountered people from all parts of the United States and the world. We heard French, German, Japanese, Korean, British English, and American English (including Texan, Illinois-ian, and New Yorkan). One valuable lesson I learned: America’s natural gems are treasured throughout the world.

We Americans have environmental treasures throughout our country, from the high-plains deserts of Wyoming and Montana to the lush tropics of Florida and Hawaii. We are so incredibly fortunate that visionaries of the late 1800s and early 1900s ensured Grand Canyonplaces such as Yellowstone (set aside in 1872), Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon were set aside for those of us today and those who come after us can experience these unique, majestic areas for ourselves. Watching The Roosevelts on Public Television, I’ve been reminded that Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, saw the value in these lands; so did Bill Clinton when he expanded or established more than 20 national monuments, setting aside Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah and the Missouri River Breaks in Montana, among others, as national treasures worthy of protection – both presidents received great flack for their stewardship strides, protecting places for future generations to enjoy. Had it not been for these men, and many other people, my dad and I would not have been able to experience these amazing vistas nor now have this great memory to cherish. Additionally, communities’ as well as America’s economy would not be primed with cash from international visitors who take bus tours, stay in hotels, rent cars, dine out, and buy souvenirs … and who experience something their country doesn’t have: natural national treasures.

Nat Bridge_BryceI was very blessed not only by encounters with other park/monument visitors, but by the incredible scenery and the memory-making time with my father. Sharing this trip with my dad is something I will never forget. Having such majestic places to enjoy with him, and with my parents together as a youngster, is a majestic memory that will never be erased.

I often wonder why so many Americans do not value these national treasures; I’ve heard several say, “if you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all,” or “What good is a pile of rocks?” Ask that question of the numerous visitors from Europe and Asia who have no such place to enjoy, who travel thousands of miles to experience the beauty and majesty of vistas, canyons, rocks, and forests. Ask that question of the multitude of creatures that call those landscapes home: a treasure-trove of birds, mammals, reptiles, and plants that exist in the varied environments. Sitting on the porch of a rented cabin near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon one morning, I counted no less than seven bird species, and throughout our trip we saw a plethora of wildlife, including mule deer, elk, rabbits, squirrels, lizards, and other critters – neither the desert nor the forest is devoid of life.

Best Friends SignThe third lesson I learned is that I’m given opportunity; I only need to be vigilant. My parents taught me at a young age to conserve, to respect nature and to honor the Creator. My faith is re-enforced when I experience nature: a glowing scarlet sunset, the myriad of colors in a forest meadow or a shimmering rainbow, the individuality and creativity of each species of plant and animal. As a writer and an appreciator of nature (thanks in large part to my wonderful parents!), I see opportunity in traveling to these special places. There are magazine articles and blog posts (like this one) to write, there are potential business endeavors to create (offering to write brochure and other marketing copy for tourism-based businesses), and there are books to sell (I met several dog-oriented people during the trip and also made contact with a bookstore at which I may be able to sell my books – it’s located in Kanab, Utah and named for an animal and when I mentioned I write dog stories and am a supporter of Best Friends Animal Society & Sanctuary, the store’s owner indicated interest in carrying my books). Passing out business cards, not being afraid to tell others I’m a writer with a passion for pets and the environment, and sharing my experiences with readers weaves the tapestry of my life – and knitting those treasures, blessings and opportunities together creates a firmer foundation and solidifies the calling upon my heart.

Red Cat Bookstore_Kanab

What experiences have added to the woven fabric of your life? What has influenced your writer’s calling (or whatever other passions are instilled within you?)

P.S. The National Park Service celebrates 100 years as an agency in 1916, and National Public Lands Day is this Saturday, September 27th – I encourage each of us to go out and enjoy the bountiful treasures that are our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges. Volunteer, visit, write, wonder, educate, enjoy – you too may find a treasure-trove of blessing and opportunity!

Red Canyon_BryceSage_Gayle_Children_LibraryGayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She’ll be speaking about “Dogs with Jobs” at the Natrona County Library in Casper, WY at 2 pm on Sat., September 27th. She is the author of five inspirational dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released in August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

Passionate Writing

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

With a blog title like this, you’re probably thinking romantic and sex scenes, but no, I’ll disappoint you on that one! Today I’m addressing an idea some writers (and readers) may think about and may not: weaving things like hobbies, charities, and other interests into our stories, in other words aspects of our lives that we’re passionate about (and not our love lives!)

For example, some of our Wranglers are animal lovers, horses and dogs in particular. Horses play a strong role in Kate Wyland’s writings, and my books are dog-oriented. In fact, I’m writing a new children’s book about dog rescue, with the true-to-life story of a dog I helped to rescue and her eventual adoption – this book will also contain factual information about animal welfare organizations in my region and how children and families can assist such groups. I’m excited to use this book not only to educate and inspire, but also to help these rescues financially — part of sales will be donated to such groups. I enjoy weaving my passion for animals, and for animal rescue, into my writing!

Dog Adoption

My latest work weaves my passion for dogs with my Christian faith. Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God is a collection of short (two-page) devotions, topics transformed into life and faith lessons and stitched together with dog stories and Biblical passages. These reflections give readers ponder and application for their lives, such as being thankful for little things, as showcased by Willie, a dachshund/min-pin who loves to sprint through the woods in pursuit of rabbits, and being loved and accepted, highlighted by the story of Sam, a cocker spaniel abandoned then later adopted. I truly enjoy finding ways to bring my passion for pets into my writing while also encouraging readers!

There are so many things we as writers enjoy about life that we can bring to our writing, things such as music, travel, history, even crafts. A Wyoming writer whom I’ve met at various booksignings writes mysteries, and all of her stories involve quilts. Barbara Graham’s books weave some aspect of quilting into her murder mystery stories. She has a new book scheduled for release this fall and plans to be in Casper for a signing at a quilt shop during the holiday season. I have many quilter friends and I believe this will be a great outing for them!

I know several in our Writing Wranglers group in addition to Kate and I who weave items of interest into their stories. If you kissing coupledon’t do so yet, consider what your passions are and how you might integrate those things into your upcoming stories.

You can even combine passion with passion! Passion within the pages can be what you’re interested in as well romantic passion between your characters: how about a man and woman who have a mutual interest in opera or the symphony, or a veterinarian and dog rescurer? There are endless ways to weave passions for causes with romance between characters!

We have a great opportunity to share with our readers the things that are important to us, educating as well as entertaining those who pick up our books. Showcase your passion in your writing!

Happy tales/tails! Write passionately!

Gayle & Mary outside

Gayle M. Irwin, shown above with rescued therapy dog Mary, is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure and Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog. Her newest work is a Kindle book (and soon-to-be paperback) titled Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She weaves positive life lessons into her writing to encourage readers.  Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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Remembering and Writing with Dignified Passion

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

“Writing should start as a lump in your throat,” one of the panelists said. I attended the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park earlier this month and listened to several editors speak on panels as well as heard presenters at many workshops. That lump in a writer’s throat reflects passion: for the topic, the character, the mission.

Today is Memorial Day, a day to remember the men and women in our Armed Services who died for their/our country. As I’ve reflected on this holiday, I remember these people died for my freedoms, for my freedom of speech and print. My grandfather and godfather both served in World War II, and one of my uncles was drafted into Vietnam. They all returned physically alive, but changed in heart and mind in many ways. They, too, sacrificed, although not the final way so many others did. It’s estimated that more than 400,000 Americans died in World War II, and more than 58,000 in the Vietnam conflict. (source: http://www.militaryfactory.com/american_war_deaths.asp). Because I live in the United States of America and others died for my liberties, I am free to write that which I’m passionate about, that which causes a lump in my throat.

JohnMandJimB_Army_croppedMy grandfather John Mansfield and godfather James Barnes and company at boot camp in Mississippi prior to deployment during World War II.

I am not only remembering and honoring those service men and women this day, but I’m also remembering one of my writer mentors. Elizabeth Laden was a woman who lived with passion and dignity. She was the publisher/editor of the Island Park News in Island Park, Idaho, a small community over the border from West Yellowstone, MT, where I served as the editor of the West Yellowstone News during the mid-1990s. In some ways, we were competitors, searching out some of the same advertisers and tackling some of the same stories. Yet, Bear_Yellowstone_2012we were not adversaries. Elizabeth’s gift of writing and her passion for the Yellowstone area were infectious. I was a newbie-newspaper editor, in some ways still a newbie-reporter. Yet, she counseled and encouraged me. When I left the region to pursue new goals, she let me write a wildlife column for her paper, and when I wrote my first book, she gave me pointers about publishing, for she had already written and published two novels. The years passed and we began to lose touch, only seeing each other once every few years. Her newspaper grew and she became busier than ever, covering a larger area with her publication. Elizabeth died of a heart attack last fall – my heart has a hole because I didn’t get to see her last summer when I was in the area and now I won’t have opportunity again on this earth. Yet, I remember her passion, her encouragement, her tenacity, and I am grateful for the friendship we shared.

Just a few days ago I learned of another lovely lady’s passing, a woman I worked with when I moved to Casper more than 13 years ago. Florence Murphy was another passionate, dignified lady, and her obituary even mentioned her “dignified death” from the dreaded disease of cancer. A cultured Canadian, Florence exuded an almost royalty-like quality. Not surprisingly, when she retired a few years ago, she bought a small estate in her home country with English-style gardens. Florence was a writer in her own right, serving as a public relations specialist, a community and corporate communicator, and I learned a lot from her. I am saddened to learn of her passing, yet I recall the passionate dignity with which she lived and worked.

Upon leaving the writer’s conference last week and reflecting upon this Memorial Day holiday, I am morebison bull_Yellowstone determined than ever to write what my heart and soul call me to pen and publish. I was blessed at the conference in many ways, including doors opening for another book and opportunities to write for more magazines. I plan to walk through those doors, to honor the memories of my mentors and the sacrifices of my fellow countrymen and women, by writing and publishing with a passionate dignity.

May all of us find that “lump in the throat”, that passion that calls us to write and to follow the nudges we experience in our work. Doing so honors those who died for our freedoms, including the freedom of speech and print.

In addition to America’s service men and women, who do you remember this Memorial Day? Who can you still thank for mentoring and encouraging you, for helping you achieve your goals and dreams? I encourage you to do so this day!

Walking_FrontCover_smallGayle M. Irwin is a writer who is passionate about the natural world. The author of several dog books for children and adults, she weaves positive life lessons into her work to encourage readers. Her own dogs serve as the characters in her stories. Her latest work is Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned from My Blind Dog. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul and has written articles for Creation Illustrated magazine. She is currently working on three more books: a devotional paralleling life’s seasons with the seasons of nature, a dog rescue story for children, and a book about the prairie ecosystem for kids and families. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.