Science and Me Redux

Over seven years ago, I posted “How and Why I Don’t Know Science,” which was “Freshly Pressed” by WordPress. I’m going to paste it here so you can read it if you like and if you didn’t at that time. Why am I posting it all over again?

I am reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This is how the book is described on Goodreads:

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Werner, the German boy, is a genius at science, math, engineering, mechanics. I am not quite 1/3 of the way into the book and the two main characters have separate threads. Werner’s thread makes science, especially applied sciences, sound so fascinating that it makes me regret that I never learned much science in school. Thinking about this reminded me of my post all those years ago. The post explains how it came about that I didn’t learn science.

Once in awhile I like to go back and look at something I wrote a long time ago. I’ve had seven years of writing experience after composing that blog post. I’ve also changed as my life has evolved over time. Since I wrote it I have become more involved with my writing and more involved with cat rescue. And I’ve gotten farther away from my childhood.

The main reason for feeling that I am further from my life (and me) as a child is that because I have written so much about my childhood since then I have been able to let some of it go. Once I write about an event, I unpin it from deep inside me and it begins to float away. Very useful way to get rid of bad memories.

Until one goes back and reads a memory, of course ;).

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Here is HOW AND WHY I DON’T KNOW SCIENCE.

After I heard we had to dissect the body of a cat in tenth grade biology class, I requested to take a replacement course instead. Today many school districts are sensitive to this issue and students can opt out without creating a stir. But back in 1971, school administrators at my Michigan school had never heard of a college-track student requesting to skip the foundation of high school science classes—and all over a dead cat. (How and Why the cat would die wasn’t divulged). Although they were surprised by my request, they allowed me to switch over to a course called Earth Science, but the only connection it had with its name was interminable dullness like dirt.

At fifteen I saw the world through a lens like a microscope and never from the top of a cliff. My father often said, “You can’t see beyond your own nose. It’s the bigger picture that counts.” My father, though, only saw the world as if it were a coloring book—large geometric blanks to be colored in by him, sloppily, with loops passing wildly beyond the black lines.

My view worked well for the science projects I had performed at home for years. When I was nine, my mother had bought me a How and Why book with scientific experiments kids could do at home. I grew mold on potatoes, made a weather station, something different every week.

But Earth Science class turned out to be a playpen for students who would not much longer be called students, kids who had troubles at home and troubles at school. Because I didn’t have the capacity to look at the longer range consequences, I didn’t realize that by not taking biology I’d left science behind. I wasn’t able to study physics or chemistry as all the science classes were lined up like the begetters in the Bible—biology begat chemistry which begat physics.

The SAT didn’t require any scientific knowledge, and somehow, with my intuitive test taking abilities, I managed an eighty-something percentage on the science portion of the ACT. The next year I attended a college chosen for its proximity to my boyfriend and satisfied the lone science requirement by taking a course called “The History of Science,” which taught no science.

Today I don’t know much about science, but my conscience is clear where my four cats are concerned. Too bad I couldn’t have a clear conscience and science both.

###

Obviously seven years ago I had four cats. But now I have six!

Kana says, “Have the best week possible!”

Kana is next to my cardboard standing work desk

and the painting on the wall behind her was by my MIL;

the table is one we call “kitchen” but actually functions as cat feeding station

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Let’s Hope This is the Last Pet Post for Some Time

This is a weird post to write after I’ve been telling you about the pets that have been part of my life.

By the way, I’m going to interrupt myself. In my twenties and into my thirties, we had two dogs. The first one my mother-in-law found downtown Kalamazoo. That first night, the pup had to sleep in her car in the garage because of the old dog my in-laws owned. It was early December, but my MIL made the car quite comfortable and warm enough for the pup out there. By day two, my MIL had given her to us. The gardener named her Muffin. Actually that was sort of a compromise. He wanted to name her Muffy or Scruffy or something undistinguished like that. I wanted a more complex and respectable name, but had to settle on the over-used name Muffin.

A couple of years later, I was waiting on a customer in our luggage store downtown when I saw another scruffy mutt run down the sidewalk. I grabbed a dog biscuit that I happened to keep in the drawer under the cash register and followed the dog down the street. When he hid under a car in a parking lot, I had to crawl under there in my newish khaki skirt (grrrr). I pulled him out and took him back to the store. The rest is history. I named him Oliver because he gulped down the only thing we had in the fridge, which I think was milk (not good for a dog’s tummy, I know).  “Please, sir, I want some MORE!” (Oliver Twist from the musical Oliver)

These dogs were groomed together, so they began to look a little bit alike.  They were both very well-loved. I found over 25 stray dogs over that period of my life, but located other homes for the rest of them.

When our kids were babies, these dogs were the most efficient vacuum cleaners, especially under the high chair and the kitchen table.

OK, I’m going back to what I wanted to tell you to begin with. I quit my volunteer job at the animal shelter! I’ve been there five or six years and love what I do there. There was a political situation, and I left to show solidarity with the most amazing HUMAN HERO FOR CATS. So that is that. It’s too Covidy out and about for me now, so I will have to wait to find a new shelter. That doesn’t mean I can’t help out as I see little ways to do so. It’s pretty devastating for me personally, but even more so for the cats at the shelter. I worry about them although they will certainly be better off than on the street or in abusive situations. I’m sad.

 

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Animals, a List

This past week the lit mag North of Oxford posted a list of the 10 most read poems from their magazine from January-July 2020. It was exciting to see my poem “Medusa’s #Metoo” make the list!

10 Most Read Poems

After writing about my kitty Toby in No Goodbye: A Cat Story I decided to write about my other childhood pets, as well as other animals I encountered in life. Sort of clearing my head about my upbringing with animals. So this isn’t a story, per se, like the one about Toby. It’s more of a list of animals.

The first memory that comes to mind that involves animals I actually already wrote about on this blog almost eight years ago. You can find it here: A Ride with Memory. It’s about my earliest scary memory, and I wasn’t even three-years-old yet. This story involves a horse.

When I was in kindergarten my grandmother babysat me every day before school and all afternoon until almost dinner time. My aunt and her springer spaniel Sandy lived with my grandparents. I was repeatedly warned not to touch Sandy. I needed to stay away from Sandy because Sandy was a biter. Actually, the only person Sandy had ever bitten was me, when I was a baby. She bit my eyelid off, and at the hospital, a doctor sewed it back on. I didn’t remember that trauma, and I still insisted on making a meat pie to celebrate Sandy’s birthday.

When I was five or six, the neighbor’s Dalmatian bit me in the leg, but it wasn’t too serious.

Before we got Toby the cat, we had a bowl with goldfish a couple of times, but they always died. I think I overfed them, and it polluted the water. I had small turtles, but they invariably walked away out of our yard and never came back. Once my father brought home baby ducks at Easter time. Not chicks, ducks. I don’t know what happened to them, but I was terrified of how fragile they were and that I could hurt them. We had chicks one year, too.

I am starting to see the thread here. My father bringing pets home for the family. I’m sure it irritated my mother. Then he brought home a big cage with two guinea pigs.  My mother made us keep them in the basement. I’ve written a little story about this for my never-finished memoir, but to sum up: the guinea pigs were unfixed male and female. My dad helped me through the crisis that ensued.

A few months later, he brought home a puppy. A man he worked with had found the puppy at a lake where someone had tried to drown the entire litter. I suspect Perky was the only one left alive, and my father brought her home to us. My mother named her Perky after the man who found her: Mr. Perkins.

Here’s a scrapbook page my mom made for me of some childhood pets. The photo in the upper right is an example of how I always loved feeding the animals. But I still remember being bitten by a llama at Deer Forest Park.  Perky is the dog with the collie-type coloring.

Yup, that’s me and the gardener in the center, bathing Perky. She was already getting old there. In the lower left she was playing on the beach at our lake cottage with a “local” puppy. My brother is almost eight years younger than me. At some point, Perky really became his dog because Perky could hang around him while he was playing outside. The gardener and I were out of town when Perky had to be “put to sleep,” and my father and brother went together to the vet and stayed with Perky. That was as it should be.

In 7th grade, the girls and I cut through a vacant lot and someone’s backyard to get home from school. We didn’t notice the white German Shepherd in the dog house. He lunged at us, incensed at our audacity. We ran like crazy, but he was on a chain (poor thing, no wonder he was crabby) and so we were safe. Or so I thought. I slowed down just a moment too soon. He could still reach me, s0 he took a chunk out of my ankle. After that, I was scared of German Shepherds until I became an adult.

When I was fifteen I bought myself a cage with two finches: a brilliant scarlet one and a beautiful green. Of course, the green one managed to get herself egg-bound and although I held her over the steam like the book said to do, she still couldn’t pass the egg and eventually died from the exertion. I kept finches for years, but they were all gone before my kids entered my life. Good thing, or my babies would have been eating birdseed off the floor. Finches are lovely to look at, but very messy because when they eat they hurl the hulls of the seeds across the room.

As an adult I’ve had dogs, cats, the finches, hermit crabs, and a rat. (She was the best pet). I’d like to have donkeys, but it’s looking doubtful that that is going to happen.

Lots of sad times with the animals. And some painful ones when I was bit (three dogs and one llama). But none of it deterred me from being an animal lover–from fish to horses, I love all the species I encountered.

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In this pandemic I am so grateful to have my six cats. But last night Felix had to go to the ER. He had diarrhea, wouldn’t eat, and hadn’t peed in 38 hours. The vet said his bladder was small, so that was a mystery, but I was glad he wasn’t blocked. I hope he gets better fast and that it’s not something bad. Poor baby.

Here’s Kana to say HI and BYE!

Perry hasn’t said HI in awhile, so he wanted to hop in here, too. Cutie pie.

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The Year I’d Like to Return: Refund, Please

I hope you and yours are all well, and that you are handling all this chaos and sometimes isolation.

We had some sad news this weekend. My cousin’s son passed away after all those weeks in a coma/on a ventilator/ on dialysis. He left behind a 6-year-old son, wife, mother and father, sister, and grandfather. I feel very sad for him, as well as for his son and wife. And my cousin and her husband have had a lot of tragedy in their lives before this, so it’s just too too much.

I have to stretch to find something positive right now to share as I want to retreat to my couch with an ice cream bar. I saw a cute hummingbird and took a couple of lousy pix and a short movie. And today is my birthday, by the way. A big one. Woohoo. Heh.

I can’t figure out what kind of hummingbird this one is. We live in Maricopa County, so I looked up hummers in this area, and he/she doesn’t really look like any of the ones pictured. The closest would be a male black-chinned hummingbird.

My mom got me this book of cute poems by kittens. It was written by the same author of I Can Pee on This.

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No Goodbye: A Cat Story

Five years ago, when the gardener and I adopted Kana, our black cat, I wrote a little bit about my first cat who also happened to be black. I thought I’d tell you the whole story this time. Here is TOBY’S STORY (and I’m sorry, but it’s not a pretty one):

The cat that lived with the Cuban brothers across the street had kittens the year I was seven. My parents had never shown an interest in animals, but because I was an only child and begged so desperately, they gave in and let me choose an all-black kitten.  My mother named him Toby. The only other interest I remember her taking in him was when he had a hairball, and she read up about how to care for cats with hairballs.

Toby spent most of his time hiding under my bed or in the basement.  Mom would tell me to take him outside to go potty, but he would refuse to come out. I had to find him in a dark corner downstairs or slide under my narrow bed and grab him so that he wouldn’t make a mess in the house.  I wonder if Toby and I were afraid of the same things in that house.

I don’t know how I got this pic of Toby in the living room!

One day my mother screamed. “Look what that cat’s done to my drapes!!” I ran into the living room. Tears streamed down her cheeks. The silk drapes had dozens of snags on them. Unfortunately, the drapes were the most elegant furnishing in our bungalow. They were cast-offs from one of my grandmother’s wealthy clients, and she had altered them for my parents.  I realized then that my secretive cat ventured out to the living room when everyone was asleep or not home.

A few months later, we picked up the baby brother I had been waiting for from the adoption agency office. Ted was a 6-week-old infant with a red rash covering his face. My mother hadn’t taken care of a baby for many years, and she became nervous and worried, imagining dangers.

One day that spring, when I got off the school bus, my father met me in front of the house. I was not used to seeing him home during the day. He sat me down and explained that Toby was gone. “Toby had to go away because of your new baby brother.” He told me he took Toby to a house in the country where he could live with more freedom. I don’t remember particularly believing him, but grief welled up in me like bile. Up to that point in my life, the only other serious loss I had encountered was three years before when I accidentally saw my mother cramming my white blankie into the garbage. Later, my mother would tell me, “Cats are dangerous to babies, Luanne. Toby could accidentally smother Ted.” But in those moments after I arrived home, only my father was there for me.

I still feel ashamed about what happened next. To stop my tears, Dad offered to take me to the store right then to pick out any toy I wanted. I had never in my life been able to pick out a toy. A Golden Book, yes, but not a toy. When I did receive something lovely, it was usually a hand-me-down or a gift my grandmother had sewn. We always had enough food to eat, but we were upwardly mobile poor, and my parents never bought me trendy, name-brand toys. While my friends had Barbie dolls, I had a Miss Suzette doll from Grant’s basement.

Although I continued to cry, I followed Dad to the car, and we drove to a fancy children’s store I had only seen from the outside. Once inside, my tears and confusion made it difficult to concentrate. I tried to focus my eyes, and the first item I noticed was a black imitation patent leather Barbie doll case. It epitomized the type of toys I could never dream of owning, so I pointed at it.

On the way home, I clutched the case in my hand, knowing I had betrayed Toby. I had begged to have him, which altered the course of his life. Then I accepted an empty plastic box with a handle in exchange for his silky fur and beating heart.

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I don’t know what ever really happened to Toby. I think it’s probably true that he went to live in the country because my father knew a lot of people and could have easily made that happen. But was he safe in his new home? That I don’t know. I hope he was happier than at our house. My father yelled too much, and that probably scared Toby. Since he would hide under my bed, I have to assume he wanted me to protect him. But I couldn’t protect him while I was at school. My parents would have never intentionally hurt Toby, but they didn’t make his life any easier. While I think it’s a likely story about Toby going to live in the country, I have never actually asked my parents if that is what really happened.

Alternative end to memory: I asked one of my parents, and he/she lied to me because they know I love animals and freak out about any harm to them.

I really can’t remember. What do you think?

 

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Where Do I Send My Story or Poem?

The other day, Ellie from Crossed Eyes and Dotted Tees asked me how I find magazines/journals where I can submit my writing. On the chance that maybe what I do might help someone else, I thought I’d share my haphazard method for finding good places to submit short stories (both fiction and nonfiction) and poetry.

First, though, Kana says hi.

My list items are effective by themselves, but I also think that there is a synergy that develops from doing them all or a large portion. Kind of a 2 + 2 = 5 result. Some journals show up repeatedly, and I’ve learned more about them in this way. Then a new name springs up, and I check it and wow! a wonderful new mag for writers and readers to discover.

  • Let’s start with social media. I have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, my blogs, and a website. For the purposes of finding journals and magazines, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are arguably the most important.
  • On Facebook I joined writers’ groups and engage at least occasionally. I also “like” the pages of journals that are mentioned. When Facebook gives me suggestions to like journal pages, I either “like” and check out later or check out before I decide to “like.”
  • On Twitter, I follow lots and lots of literary magazines and journals, as well as writers. The more you follow, the more suggestions for journals you discover and, hence, the more you follow.
  • On Instagram, I follow “suggestions” for journals to follow.
  • I’ve taken writing workshops in the past where I met writers. I stay in touch with many of them.
  • When I find journals and have a chance to read and check them out, I keep track of them. I used to bookmark them on my computer. But the other day I deleted most of them because this method had become unwieldy. I also found that I have reached the point where I didn’t need it as much any longer.

What else do I do?

  • Search Twitter and Facebook for submission calls. Sometimes that search can produce a request for submissions from a journal you have never heard of before. Or maybe a themed issue that fits well with something you are working on.
  • Use the Poets & Writers literary magazine list as a guide.
  • Check out Clifford Garstang’s Pushcart ratings lists. They are invaluable for seeing which journals have published Pushcart-selected pieces (doesn’t predict the future, but looks at the past). Here is the 2020 list for Fiction. You can look around for nonfiction and poetry once you’re on the site.
  • Search for submissions through my Duotrope membership.
  • Read Allison Joseph’s site. She used to run CWROPPS, a valuable Yahoo group. When they shut the groups down, she started posting on her blog: Creative Writers Opps.
  • Read Trish Hopkinson‘s site for poets only.
  • Read collections of stories or poems. Then I check out the acknowledgements and see where the writing was first published. That gives me a solid list of journals.
  • Every time I encounter a journal new to me that looks promising, I read at least a good portion of an issue. Try it. See the bios of the writers published in that issue? They often give names of other magazines that have published their writing. Go check those out!

You can see that this process is extensive and symbiotic, but not exhaustive. I certainly don’t do this all perfectly. But I’ve done it for a long time, and I don’t stop going through the process: the literary journal world is ever-changing. It’s important to keep up. Many journals have closed up shop in the last year or two, but many more are publishing their first or second issue.

If you have other ideas for finding places to which you can submit your work, please share!

This cactus flower was a little slower to bloom than the others. It’s nice to have one open now while it’s so stinken hot.

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Nonfiction Story Up at Twist in Time Magazine

My nonfiction story about an important little house in my past was published in the new issue of Twist in Time Magazine. Thank you to editor Renee Firer.

And guess what? Merril Smith has two poems in the issue, too!

You can find my story here:

The Changing House

The issue with Merril’s poems and some other excellent pieces is here:

Twist in Time Magazine Issue 9

Here is a photo of The Changing House itself in  its very first manifestation.

And here is a photo I took of some of the neighborhood kids with my little camera. My brother is in this pic, second from our left.

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Making Sense of the Chaos

A week out from my last pandemic post, and here I am just another week deeper into Arizona-covid-season. Ugh. Is it possible that the heat makes the virus grow faster?

I’ve been thinking about how I don’t want to move very far from my writing, but that I don’t feel like actually writing. What I really like to do these days is organize. Last week I told you about organizing my poems. Organizing my genealogy research. I’m organizing my house chores.

So why?

I guess I am trying to make structure and sense out of chaos. Because this virus does seem incredibly chaotic. They still know so little about it, but some of the possibilities emerging show the virus acting very unpredictably and unlike other viruses.

There is a possibility that my cousin’s son who has been fighting for his life for a month on a ventilator could be battling covid. But when he entered the hospital he tested negative. His wife is an aide at that very hospital, coming home from work every day with hospital germs. I don’t know. We’ve all speculated so much that our brains are already twisted inside out. The thing is, he’s only 32 and has a 6-year-old son. But he’s been in a medically-induced coma for almost three weeks now. When he entered the hospital, he wasn’t all that sick–he posted on Facebook right away about what was going on. How does a young person with no pre-existing conditions get this sick this fast and nobody knows what’s wrong with him?!

Yes, I feel depressed about him being so sick. It’s that feeling underneath everything that something awful is happening no matter how blue the sky. Please pray for him if you’re so inclined. Or send some super special healing vibes toward SW Michigan. His name is Matt.

In the midst, though, I need to be there for other people. My daughter put off looking for a wedding dress that had been scheduled in April. She begged me to go with her at the end of June, so I went with her Friday. The shop scheduled an appointment just for her–no other clients allowed inside during our time. We all wore masks. I used my sanitizer a few times and even sprayed my chair with Lysol ;). You can laugh, but I am getting nervous about the numbers here in Arizona mounting every day.

It was good to spend time with my daughter. Originally we wanted her future MIL to be with us, but we had to Facetime her once the gown was selected. She’s stuck in New Jersey (on the golf course haha). It was very easy to pick out a dress. Our taste is similar, she already had an idea of what she wanted,  I already had an idea of what she wanted, and we both knew what would look good on her and what would not. She found the most gorgeous dress I’ve  ever seen. And they are going to alter it in a way that will “customize” the dress and be exactly what she wants.

All the main components of the wedding have been selected now. They found a rabbi they love. Well, he’s a …Longhorn. Daughter and her fiancé are Sooners! Some Red River Rivalry haha. The rabbi will be the main officiant. Then they are looking for a priest or pastor to work with the rabbi. They have a stunning venue. But if they need to only have a few of us at the wedding because of that nasty covid, at least the dress and the rabbi can both still be used.

I almost forgot to mention: I got my last acceptance to complete my 2020 goal. Twist in Time magazine selected a short nonfiction piece for publication in a couple of days. Woot.

I am going to close comments here. I hope you don’t mind. I still need to catch up on comments from last week. I also need to add a little bacon grease to food I set in front of Tiger. Yup. Only way she’ll eat it. Then I need to organize something.

This is not the dress!

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Poem Up at Sleet Magazine

A big thank you to editor Susan Solomon who has published my poem “How They Fall” at Sleet Magazine.

The poem is an important part of the themes I’m working with in my new collection: flight, falling, the ups and downs of life. It’s also very cool that all of the very few poems in the issue feel connected with each other.

How They Fall

 

My daughter’s skydive

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What’s Good About This?

I haven’t mentioned the pandemic too much lately because it’s so much of the same-old-same. And I know when I mention anything on social media or Facebook to friends that some of them get depressed at any covid talk. But I thought about not posting because it’s all I wanted to talk about today–and I didn’t want to muzzle myself. Except with a 3-layer face mask, of course.

Arizona numbers are way up, and this is after I’ve been hibernating for over three months. The appointment for my daughter to look at bridal gowns is Friday, and I am supposed to go with her. It’s so so hard to develop much enthusiasm at this point.

So in the interests of our mental health (there is so little of it available currently) I will mention covid negatives that turned into positives only.

  • Following Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I started this program last fall and joined a local group for moral support. The group is still meeting once a month (by Zoom now), but the only thing I am writing in my morning pages is what I made for dinner each day. I have over 3 months of menus, but nothing else since the pandemic began. So what’s good about this? I like writing our dinners down. Maybe it will come in handy some day. HAHAHA And I am glad the meetings are still being held because it’s wonderful to consort with other women artist types.
  • I have pandemic brain. Very fuzzy and not very smart. I had to look up “consort” to make sure about the meaning. Yup. It means to “habitually associate with (someone), typically with the disapproval of others.” A lot of artistic women have experienced the disapproval of others throughout their lives, so we’re there (here?) for each other. So what’s good about this? Recognizing that we have each others’ backs.
  • I can’t/won’t travel, see my mother in Michigan, go out to dinner. Yes, we are being very careful. So what’s good about this? More time with my cats, especially with the oldsters, Pear and Tiger, who just want me near them all the time.
  • Although I wrote a few poems near the beginning of the “lockdown,” I no longer even want to write a poem. Or if I do, it’s a little tiny flicker, not a flame. Certainly not enough to sustain me through a whole poem. So what’s good about this? I took the time to organize my poems into one chapbook, then another chapbook, then I put both chapbooks together into a full-length collection. It might still keep morphing, but at least I feel like I’m doing something! I’ve been working on titles, too ;).
  • Because of the pandemic I am beyond exhausted and have way too much work to do. This happened because 1) I have way more work-work than I did before, 2) I have no occasional help as I did before, and 3) all that damn cooking. So what’s good about this, you might ask?! OK, this is a  little convulated. Maybe I’m pushing it. But I think it’s true. I don’t want to give up on my genealogy research, no matter what. But I really am too pandemic-brained and tired to do anything mentally taxing. So instead, I am doing a mindless fill-in-the-gaps project for my direct ancestors (I think I’ve mentioned this before) AND I am organizing my genealogy documents on my computer. Um, they were a mess. So I am pretty happy that I am making some structure out of chaos.
  • I miss hugging my kids. You got me there. Nothing good about that.

This probably doesn’t have much to do with covid, but I am only one journal away from meeting my publication goal for 2020! There are still four due to publish throughout the summer. Waiting on that one more acceptance . . . 🙂

Wear your masks, please. Wash your hands. Carry sanitizer with you. And if you need to travel and you’re female, get one of those pee funnels. If you’re male, get one of those portable urinals. That will save you from some restroom covid germs. I guess since I can’t hug my kids, I am trying to “mom” everyone else!

XOXO

Pear Blossom, age 20 1/4

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