Mask as Identity or as Hiding Place?

I’m always thinking of a mask as a means to an end–that which hides someone or someone’s face. When I meet someone wearing a mask I feel very uncomfortable–much like when someone is wearing dark sunglasses or is in a car with darkly tinted windows. I feel at a disadvantage. I am on the outside and can’t look in.

Maybe it’s because of all the scariness that hides behind masks. Think of the Anonymous Hackers mask. One minute they are ruining people’s lives with their hacking and the next they are trying to save us by hacking ISIS (Daesh, ISIL, the Islamic State–sorry I had to point out that all these names are another form of mask). So masks scare me.

But I noticed this mask my kids have hanging on the wall, left from a long-ago trip to Italy, and suddenly it occurred to me that the mask itself speaks volumes. The mask is a costume, an identity that can be donned.

And that made all the difference for me.

This mask is from the Carnival of Venice. I love costumes, theatre, and a chance at a temporary and different identity.

Duh, I guess that is why I am a writer. When I was a kid I wanted to be one of the “3 As”–actor, author, or archeologist. They are all about different identities, in one way or another.

How do masks seem to you? What mask would you choose right now? I think there’s a writing prompt in here somewhere . . . .


I’m behind with responding to comments because . . . um, because. But I will catch up this week! Thank you so much for your kind wishes about Doll God and your advice about resting or writing!  And Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!!! I don’t think I’ll be able to post again this week, but I’ll be blog reading!


Filed under #AmWriting, Art, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing prompt

An Award-Winning Book!

That’s right: my “baby” is an award-winning book. Doll God won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award in its category. I can’t help but say WOOHOO!

And if I do say so myself, this book makes a great Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and [insert your holiday of choice] gift.

I’ll be donating some autographed copies for the raffle at the Holiday Festival that the animal shelter is participating in, so if you’re in the Phoenix area, you can pick one up that way! Or you can click the book to get to Amazon.

Home Fur Good Holiday Festival Cave Creek, AZ: December 12, 2015

Frontier Town
6245 E. Cave Creek Rd.
Cave Creek, AZ 85331
Get Directions »

Description of Event:

Home Fur Good Holiday Festival will be held on December 12th, 2015. Hours: 10:00am – 3:00pm


castle promotional cover




Filed under Arizona, Book Award, Book promotion, Cats and Other Animals, Doll God, Dolls, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing

Rest or Write?

What am I doing writing-wise? If I am writing a lazy word like “writing-wise,” you can bet that my writing is getting rusty. I have a lot of work to catch up on and don’t feel much like writing, although last weekend, I did manage to write a draft of a poem for the chapbook project focusing on family history. We’ll see how well the poem reads when I take it out in a week or two for a second glance.

I have two poems for the chapbook coming out in the museum of americana and one in California Journal of Poetics. These should all be out before the end of the year.

An experimental flash nonfiction piece I began in the course Marie and I took last summer is being published by Phoebe.

But in general I don’t feel much like writing right now. My mind is too cluttered with other “goings-on.” It’s not exactly monkey mind, which is more restless and unsetted. It’s just overly full, like trying to get to sleep at night when you have too much on your mind. Maybe I need a rest from writing. Or not.

Do you think a writer should force the issue and write through those busy head times like Dory says?

If so, maybe I should get off WordPress and into Word?

On another subject, is this little boy so precious? With little kids like this, we do have hope for the future.



Filed under #AmWriting, Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Flash Nonfiction, Literary Journals, Poetry, Publishing, WordPress, Writing, Writing Tips and Habits

Tall Pointy Things

When I take my car to the dealer for service or, very occasionally, when hubby and I go to a restaurant in that area of Scottsdale, I see a startling and beautiful site. I am usually on the wrong side of the street to get a photo or traffic is moving too quickly. But the other day my car was stopped at the intersection, and I had a clear shot. Because it was dusk, the lights were already on.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this spire/tower/obelisk in 1954, intending it for the Arizona State Capitol. People thought it too “avant-garde,” so it was rejected. Can you imagine? Five years before his death, a successful man like that had a work like THIS rejected. I think it’s so gorgeous. If you see a little of the design of this in the 911 Memorial building I showed you, you and I think alike, but it must be coincidence. Speaking of terrorism, I actually have been thinking about our Scottsdale spire because it also reminds me a bit of another architectural wonder, the Eiffel Tower, which has become one of the symbols for solidarity with Paris in the wake of Friday’s terror attacks.

There is something about a tall, upstanding representation that lends hope, I think.

Here’s my own little touch of hope in the desert:

I started to wonder what the difference is between an obelisk and a spire and a tower. While I think there is a lot of  overlap, usually an obelisk has four sides to it, like the Washington Monument.

A spire is the tall pointy thing found on top of churches, for example, although you can have a spire all by itself, which is what most people think the Scottsdale beauty is.

And a tower? Well, everything else is a tower, I guess.

And, no, they are not phallic symbols. If you think they are, that’s your problem, not mine, and certainly not these works of art. Exit gutter now. hahahaha


Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Sightseeing, Travel, Writing

Reading from The Book

On Sunday, I gave a poetry reading in Redlands, California, at the State Street Deli and Cafe. It was organized by Carla McGill, who did a fabulous job of it. Before I read, Carla read some of her own poetry, as did two other poets. After the event, I was able to sell and sign some copies of Doll God. Although I get nervous speaking in public, I really do love reading my poetry aloud. Actually, I love reading poetry aloud, period.

You know what I notice in this photo? How messed up my scarf got. What a shallow mind.

Here are a couple of clips of the reading. In the first I read “American Girl,” “Effigy,” and “Calculating Loss”–all poems from the book.

and in this clip I read a new poem about my great-grandmother.


Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, California, Doll God, Dolls, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Writing

A Robot for My Cat

After all my yakking about my new cat Kana you might wonder how she’s doing.

She’s absolutely adorable, and I’m madly in love with her. She likes to follow me around and when I go outside in the yard, she waits for me at the door.

Kana’s Halloween Costume

It’s been difficult integrating her with my other cats.  All four cats–the 3 original and the 1 new one–are seniors. Felix, Pear Blossom, and Tiger Queenie Princess Mimi all like to lie around the house all day doing absolutely nothing. Kana, on the other hand, finds everything new and somewhat stimulating, especially the other cats! She has no sense of personal space and gets right up into their faces. Each cat has a different limit to his or her personal space. Tiger likes at least six feet between herself and any other cat, although she is the one who sleeps with hubby and me–pressed up against one of us. Felix likes about three feet–once another cat (except Pear–the two of them face kiss almost every day) moves into that space, he gets nervous. Pear doesn’t need as much personal space, but she is a very independent spirit. She’s a small cat, and my pet sitter says about her, “Little but mighty.”

Kana chased Tiger a lot at first, so we have been training Tiger to increase her confidence. The idea is to get her to stop running away from Kana. Now she is more apt to growl at Kana when she gets too close. The training involves treats, so Tiger doesn’t mind it at all ;).

Some days are good because Kana feels more at ease and less restless. Then everyone finds their favorite place and hangs out. Some days are not so good because Kana wanders the house, looking for a cat to annoy. Sometimes Pear goes out of her way to annoy Kana.

I was worried about the evenings because Pear likes to lie on me when I’m on the couch watching TV or reading. Tiger sometimes squeezes in, too. On rare occasions, Felix comes over and tries to find some room. So I thought Kana would expect to climb onto the couch with me, and it would cause trouble. But actually, she is a doll in the evening. We have a recliner, in addition to two couches, and after I put a soft blanket on the chair, Kana realized it made a wonderful bed for her. So while I am still working for a couple of hours in the evening, Kana lies on her TV-watching bed, next to hubby, who is on his. Eventually, I sit on the other couch to unwind, and Kana will lie on her “bed” without moving until bedtime. It’s pretty cute.

Kana does get put to bed in her own room (my office) each night, so that the others get a rest from her and she doesn’t wander into our room and upset Tiger. She doesn’t seem to mind. I’m sure this has all been a lot for her to get used to, and maybe she likes that secure alone time at night.

Because Kana is still restless during the day so often, I have been making and buying toys for her. For instance, I tape feathers and toy mice onto paper towel rolls so she can bat them around the floor.

I found a robot fish at Target. It’s not a pet toy, but found in the regular toy department. It came with a bowl, and you can see Felix checking it out.

I think the bowl is unsafe because the opening is small, so I put the fish into a regular bowl of water. Here is Kana with the fish. She seems a little more cautious of that scary goldfish.


Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

Such Sad Beauty

My daughter lives in New York City now, not far from the financial district. When we visited her this month, hubby and I accompanied her to the 911 Memorial.

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Hubby and daughter reading the names at one of the twin reflecting pools.

The flowers

The towers reflect also


Look closely: a chilling reminder

Did you see it? Up in the sky, looking quite tiny? Click on the photo and zoom in . . . .

The memorial was quite the experience, and I have no words to talk about it except in the small and personal: makes me a little queasy having my daughter living so close.


Are you a GOODREADS member? If so (or if you want to join) please vote for DOLL GOD as a write-in nominee for the Book Choice Award. If it is one of the top 5 write-ins it will become an official nominee!!! It could be your good deed of the day haha. If you’re a member, CLICK TO GOODREADS AND SCROLL DOWN TO WRITE IN

To join Goodreads, go to GOODREADS MAIN PAGE

News flash, I’m the featured poet at a poetry reading in Redlands, California, on Sunday, November 8 (300 E State Street). That’s THIS Sunday. 3-5 PM. Also reading will be two other poets, including my dear friend Carla McGill. If you recall, Carla wrote this beautiful post on here about “Poetry, Loss, and Grieving.


Filed under #AmWriting, History, Inspiration, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry reading, Sightseeing, Travel, Writing

Our Cemeteries

In the past, when we’ve visited Michigan, hubby and I visited his parents’ graves. This time, we went with my mother to the veteran’s cemetery where my father is buried. When we got to Toronto, we also visited hubby’s grandparents’ graves.  Sherri Matthews gave me the idea to write about our cemeteries.

In Michigan, it was “pouring rain,” (is that a Michigan expression where pouring is used as an adjective meaning the rain is coming down in a downpour?) and we had left the umbrella back home.  There is a government building on the very large property, and I stopped by to see if they had an umbrella to borrow. A nice young man ran about looking for one, even running out to his own car, but alas no umbrella.

The cemetery feels very spacious because there are a lot of grounds with a curving road that cuts through. All the newer sections use flat markers, rather than gravestones, so the illusion is as if one is in a park. It looks clean and contemporary.

When we got to my father’s section, the rain stopped.

Graves are dug in the order of date of death, and many have come after my father. There is an institutional feel. Everything is large and impersonal. Big equipment just beyond my father’s grave is carving out room for more of our dead veterans, and in some cases, their spouses.

I’m grateful for the sacrifices of our veterans, and I am glad that this national cemetery is well cared for and in a beautiful setting. But it’s not where I would have liked my father to be buried. Originally, my parents had plots in a family section of a local cemetery. He would have had a regular headstone, where we would not have been limited by government rules. I also don’t like this idea for my mother because eventually (she’s in very good health and a very young 80, to be clear) she would have to go in the same grave with him, I believe. But near the end my father became more and more focused on his military service in the Korean War, and he changed his funeral and burial plans.

In Toronto, we found old traditional cemeteries. We were told the name of the Jewish cemetery where we would find hubby’s grandparents, so we followed my iPhone directions to get there. We were told it was on the north side of the road, and when we got there we discovered two cemeteries–both Jewish–one on each side of the road. We went to the appropriate side, but we couldn’t find any of the relatives, although we searched the names on every stone. I kept thinking we were in the wrong place because in general the dates appeared too old to me. Although there were a few where the deaths were past 2000, for the most part I thought these plots had been bought 100 years ago.

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I felt bad about this cemetery because although someone was taking care of the grass, many stones were falling over. I didn’t know how much vandalism had to do with this and couldn’t help but wonder why nobody had fixed them!

Jewish cemeteries are sometimes subjected to vandalism. Quite recently in France hundreds were vandalized. But these are old stones and maybe they have fallen over on their own?

Eventually I wandered across the street to the very neat and orderly, but crowded, cemetery.

I searched for some time, as the sun was moving down in the sky, creating shadows. Finally, hubby reached a cousin on the phone. He drove over and showed us that there was yet a third cemetery just up the street! That’s where we found hubby’s grandparents.

Although this cemetery had the right feel and was quite beautiful and old, I won’t show you my photos of hubby’s grandparents’ gorgeous stones because his relatives are what hubby and I think of as superstitious, and I don’t want to annoy anyone.

These Toronto cemeteries all had the look of big city cemeteries where the rows of gravestones are quite close together because land is precious.


Filed under #AmWriting, History, Memoir, Photographs, Sightseeing, Travel, Vintage American culture, Writing

More Gluten Free Travel by The Celiac’s Wife

Now that I’m back, I have so many things I want to blog about: places and people we visited and books I’ve read, as well as other randoms thoughts I’ve had lately. Today I only have time to mention once again how difficult it is to travel with someone with severe celiac disease.

We flew into Chicago and drove to Kalamazoo. Because of the length of time that can be involved–especially if a plane is delayed–in going without food and what I learned last time, I packed some cheese and salami and hard-cooked eggs with a frozen ice pack in my carryon. These items, along with gluten free crackers and breads, would sustain hubby as long as necessary. As a precaution, I’d emailed my mother an easy recipe for gluten free chicken and dumplings so she could have a hot meal for us when we got in for a late dinner. She also made homemade applesauce to go with it. The gluten free dessert I packed provided the nightly dessert hubby always craves.

Next day breakfast and lunch were negotiated by reading labels at mom’s house.

My brother was making dinner for us on the grill. He had been planning it for weeks and had asked me several questions by text about what hubby could and could not have. Brother made both trout and salmon and everything was delicious.  Plus, I got to play with my brother’s granddaughter (18 months) and two dogs.

The day after we were off to Toronto and figured it would be easy to find gluten free in a big sophisticated city. Wrong. It was very difficult, but that first night we were able to rely on a standby: PERSIAN FOOD. Or you can call it Iranian food. No matter what you call it, it’s the only truly reliable food. If you’re gluten free you have to avoid the delicious bread and watch for appetizers and other odd dishes that might have gluten slipped into them. And no baklava ever ever ever. But the basic kebabs, koobidehs, and other meats, as well as the rice dishes, are all gluten free. We usually bring our own gluten free salad dressing, just to make sure, but even the salads are usually gluten free.

For the second night, we had problems. We didn’t want to subject our cousin and her friend to the same meal, and we were meeting a second cousin as well. The only restaurant we could find that we felt we could trust was a burger place that made a huge deal of having a zillion gluten free options, etc.  It sounded like the good place we ate at in Victoria. Nope. We discovered that the fries were not made in a dedicated fryer, meaning that they are fried in the same fryer and oil as the BREADED ONION RINGS. We were disappointed because the only side he could have with his burger was a very very spicy cole slaw. Between the spice and the cabbage, that is a disastrous combo for someone with a GI illness.

As an aside, although many people with celiac recover when they switch to a gluten free diet, a minority keep their symptoms because the system is already so damaged. My husband is in the latter group.

So the burger place was disappointing as the only way hubby could get enough food would be if he ordered a 2nd burger, which he was unwilling to do (too much meat, too much food, too much of the same, too much money). And we worried about cross-contamination in a place that didn’t even care to get a 2nd fryer when they advertised so much about their wonderful gluten free menu items. hahaha

After Toronto we drove to New York. We stocked up on cheese and gluten free bread items and managed to get our ice pack frozen, but the drive didn’t offer much else to eat. You can’t really get gluten free food on the road. All along the way, even at Niagara Falls, Tim Hortons was the major food option–buns, doughnuts, and coffee creamer by a company I couldn’t research! Hubby didn’t dare get anything but black coffee there.

Notice the double rainbow: no gluten free yummies at the end

New York City is both the best place and the worst place for a celiac. It’s the best because they actually had some wonderful restaurants for celiacs and the worst because there is such a wealth of wonderful foods (especially ethnic, our favorites) that hubby can’t eat. We found an entirely gluten free Italian restaurant that was very good and quite charming. We also ate in a Persian restaurant the night we saw Something Rotten, a delightful Broadway musical. The food was excellent, and so was Christian Borle in the show! In my daughter’s apartment building, a well-stocked bodega kept me satisfied and offered just enough gluten free salami and cheese for hubby.  But we couldn’t buy food off the carts around the city or eat at museums or stop wherever we liked for a snack.

We drove for 2.5 days after our NYC visit–through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and into Indiana. Breakfast the 2nd day was a bust. We had a free one at Homewood Suites, but literally everything had gluten or could have had gluten. They didn’t have any packages so that we could read labels. Waffles, pre-made omelets, sausages, cereal, you name it: all gluten or potential gluten. Hubby lived off the salami and cheese once again. And potato chips.  I had to grab whatever I could. At one rest stop I grabbed something ahead of an Amish family of 8 slow-deciders. It turned out to be 10 tiny potato wedges and breaded chicken tenders. GREASY. And then I had to carefully wash my hands so I wouldn’t contaminate hubby’s bread and cheese. Very tedious, but we didn’t starve. It just wasn’t fun and was annoying.

So when we drove toward Indianapolis late on the 2nd day of that trip, I tried to find a restaurant with gluten free offerings along a major highway. I used an app on my iPhone. The only one I found was Outback, one we can often rely on, although sometimes you get an employee that puts croutons on the salad and thinks that if he takes them off the salad will be gluten free. NOT. 1/500 of a slice of bread is enough to make a celiac sick.

Outback was literally mobbed, with a half hour wait. I started to get a sinking feeling because I worried about cross-contamination, but what else could we do? I asked hubby if he wanted to find a grocery store instead so we could read labels. But he was sick of cold food out of baggies. Then I used the restroom. What a disaster. I came out and said, “We’re going. You will get so sick here.” If they were that busy, there is no way he was safe.

Once again, I resorted to my iPhone. There was one–and only one–real option less than 2 miles away. As we drove up to it in the dark, we saw how sketchy it was. It was on the “bad side of town,” and the restaurant didn’t look so great inside. Then there was that biker decor–graffiti walls and a big skull. But by then we were starving, or at least thought we were. We decided to go in. As we stood at the counter to order our food, hubby said, “I’ll pay. Will you go look for my pita bread?” We have Middle Eastern Deli & Bakery in Phoenix, and they make gluten free pita bread. Hubby likes to take it everywhere. Out in the dark, I was searching through suitcases with the door open, thinking how dangerous this was. After a little while I heard some scuffling past me, but I had the bread in hand and turned to go in.

The heavily metalled and tattooed young lady who worked the counter was locking the door and yelled at me to come in fast so she could lock up. I scuttled in, wondering what in the world was going on. Hubby sat by the front glass window and I told him something was up and to move back from the window.

A minute later the young lady came out from the back and said to us and the other customers, “We’ve just been robbed. If you don’t want to stay we understand and you can go. If you want to finish eating, that’s fine. We are going to keep the doors locked and are closing up for the night.” She was very rattled and bounced about somewhat manically. We heard other employees in the backroom talking about the gun.

Hubby told me that it was the guy in the hoodie who had come in as I went out to the car. He and hubby had had a small conversation. At the time, hubby didn’t realize he had a gun or was planning to rob the restaurant, of course. In retrospect, the guy could have robbed hubby at that time and he could have robbed me when he came back out.

Everyone else left, but we waited for hubby’s po boy beef over rice and cole slaw (no bread) and my fried oyster po boy (YUUUUUUMMMMM) and ate it all down. I had a big glass of sweet tea, to boot. The police came, but they didn’t even interview us. What would have been the point?





Filed under #AmWriting, Research and prep for writing, Sightseeing, Travel, Writing

Back Home

I got home last night from another trip. This one was just as long as the one hubby and I took in August. We flew into Chicago, drove to Kalamazoo, Toronto, New York, Pennsylvania, and finally Indiana, visiting my mother, hubby’s cousin, and our daughter.

Now I need to write “The Definitive Guide to Gluten Free Travel REDUX.” Or at least Part 2.  And pick up my writing-writing. On top of that, I plan to prepare for a poetry reading I’m giving in Redlands, California, on November 8.

But for now I need to unpack and catch up on work. Just glad to be HOME.


Saw this cool cardboard dollhouse in an antique mall.


Filed under #AmWriting, Dolls, Sightseeing, Travel, Vintage American culture