Monthly Archives: July 2015

What Is It About Black Cats?

After my oldest cat Mac died, there was no question of “replacing” him with another cat. He had a large and impressive personality and nobody will ever take his place. But I’ve been volunteering at a local no kill shelter for six months now, and since the first night I’ve wanted to make 8-year-old all-black Nakana part of our family.

The moment we “locked eyes,” it was love at first sight—at least on my part. Soon after I began to work with the cats in the cat roaming room, Nakana developed ringworm and had to be isolated. I don’t work with the cats in isolation because I don’t want to risk bringing home an illness to my elderly cats. For months she stayed in that room because she just couldn’t shake the ringworm. Apparently, stress makes the ringworm more difficult to eradicate.


After she recovered, she was taken to PetSmart, in hopes that she would be adopted. But there she sat for another couple of months! This was at least Nakana’s second time around at the shelter (after having been returned by someone). I started stopping by PetSmart to wave at Nakana. She would reach her paw toward me. One time I told a couple looking how I have worked with the cats at the shelter, and that Nakana has a marvelous disposition. You see, if I could find her a good home, I wasn’t going to keep her from being adopted just because I wanted her. She needed a home as soon as possible and I couldn’t bring her home with sick Mac taking up so much of my time and energy. The couple took one look at her and shrugged, turning toward the pretty light-colored and patterned kittens and cats.

After I adopted Nakana and brought her to see a vet at the shelter, the vet told me that she has had three black cats and they were her favorites, but that the reason Nakana wasn’t adopted before I took her was because “a lot of people don’t like black cats.”


Is this because of superstitions that exist in the United States about black cats? According to Wikipedia, black cats are good luck in Great Britain and in Japan.

By the way, superstitions about cats can be good or bad and can affect more than black cats. If you want to read a wonderful children’s book that tries to subvert superstition about cats (in this case, a white cat) read The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth.

Sorry for that tangent.

In America and much of Europe, superstitions about black cats tend to be negative. The Pilgrims brought this attitude to this continent. This is where the notion of the black cat as a witch’s familiar comes from and why some people believe black cats are bad luck, especially when they cross one’s path.

How silly is that? They are just like all other cats: in need of loving homes and families. Although all cats have different personalities, it is true that many cat people declare with certainty that orange cats are almost as outgoing and verbal as dogs and that black cats have independent, curious, and friendly natures. I would agree with this assessment! Not all, certainly, but many.

Because we grow so many wackos and because of these preposterous superstitions (which could put ideas in the mind of wackos), Halloween is seen as a dangerous time for black cats. While there is disagreement about just how dangerous, why not just be on the safe side and keep all black cats indoors and protected through the fall? My cats are strictly indoor anyway (for their own sakes and for the sake of the wildlife), but I am particularly careful around Halloween.

But is it true that some people just don’t like black cats? Shelters have a more difficult time finding homes for black cats. My son knew this and when he went to adopt a cat two years ago, he purposely took a black kitten he named Meesker.

Meesker is one of my three grandcats!

Mac was 17 ½ when he died. He was an orange and white tabby, with a true orange tabby personality. I found him in my yard all those years ago. Fifteen years ago I found another cat in my yard—a black and white tuxedo cat I named Pear Blossom. She is now my grand lady cat. She’s black, but unlike a black cat, she has white whiskers and almost perfect tuxedo markings. Then we found Felix, a brown tabby, in our same yard, and he became our third cat. Tiger is a calico with tabby markings—maybe a patched tabby would be more accurate? Not one of them is a solid black cat, but then I didn’t choose these cats. They chose me.

But I have had a black cat before. When I was a little girl, the cat across the street had kittens, and I whined and cried enough that I was allowed to pick out a little black kitten my mother named Toby.  I hope Toby’s life eventually turned out better than it was at my house. He was afraid of so much. He was afraid to go outside. He was afraid to be any place except under my bed or hiding in the basement. And when my parents adopted my baby brother, my mother was afraid of having a cat in the house with a baby. She actually thought a cat might kill the baby!


So one day while I was at school, my parents took Toby to a farm to live out his life. And I never got to say goodbye to him. Then my father took me to an expensive toy store to pick out any toy I wanted. I had never picked out a toy I wanted before. In the midst of my tears over Toby, I selected an empty black patent leather Barbie case.  And have felt guilty my whole life that I chose a toy to make my father feel better about stealing my cat.

CATS AND DOLLS. Is that all you can write about?

Now I have a black cat again. Nakana is not Toby. She’s not anything like Toby. In fact, Nakana is a mature, good-natured, curious, calm female cat. One that all those people choosing kittens over her missed out on.


I’m having a hard time taking new photos of Nakana because she keeps moving toward me to rub against me for petting. What a hardship ;).


Have you ever had a black cat?


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

Summer Reading

Marie from 1WriteWay and I are finishing up our Flash Essay course. We’ll be posting about it before too long. I’ve had a very full work and personal (not fun stuff) schedule this summer, so adding that course was a bit much, but it did get me writing again. That’s always a good thing, even if just for my mental outlook.

I’m enjoying having Nakana part of the household but because of travel and a non-recorded leukemia test on Nakana I’ve had to wait to introduce her to the other cats.  I’m sure they wonder who that is behind the closed door! Tiger is especially curious and waits in the hall for me when I’m with Nakana.

I’m reading two books right now. One is Writing Our Way Home, a collection of writings by people who have been homeless, edited by WordPress blogger and Southern writer Ellen Morris Prewitt. I’m going slow and savoring.

41EaKva8i8L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The other book I’m reading is one suggested for class: The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction:

FlashNonFiction_200Because I am way too overtired this summer, I am falling asleep the minute I sit or lie down, so reading books where I can read in digestible chunks is wonderful. These are both well worth putting on your list.

As I move into the August hubbub and end of summer doldrums (brief pause to hurriedly look up “doldrums”–yup, that fits–“a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression,” but I think I also meant dog days, which are the hottest days and a period of sluggishness), I might post less regularly. I try to usually post Mondays and Thursdays, although sometimes I add in an extra or switch a Thursday for Wednesday or Friday. But I don’t plan on sticking to any particular schedule in August. Then I’ll re-start my regular schedule in September. I’ll be checking on your blogs as I get online!

If you are still thinking of picking up a copy of Doll God, it’s also a book that can be read in small chunks–a poem a day, for instance.


About summer in Arizona, Doll God has this to say:

the heat hints at its future
when all will be blue blue blue.

Blue sky over everything. Only here in Phoenix is blue not a cool color, but a FLAME HOT color!


Filed under #AmWriting, Blogging, Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Doll God, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Reading, Writing

Memoir Review: My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me

It’s not been such a great week. I closed comments on Monday’s post. Then I realized I couldn’t respond to comments when they were closed. I don’t know why that is, but apparently that is how WordPress operates. But know that I read your birthday wishes and thank you for them!!!

I’m going to try to pretend that the week has suddenly and miraculously taken a turn for the better and just move on. (Nothing big wrong–just very disappointed in humans. Well, maybe that is big).

I haven’t reviewed a memoir in months, but I’m back doing it today. The story in a nutshell will show you why this book tells a sensational(istic) tale, but also why it’s an important book to read.

Here’s the nutshell. The daughter of a white German woman and a Nigerian man, Jennifer Teege was born and raised in post-war Germany. She was adopted at age 7 by a German family. She ended up in Israel where she attended college, learned Hebrew, and made lifelong Israeli friends. At age 38, she learns that her grandfather was a famous Nazi, Amon Goeth. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, think harder. Think of Ralph Fiennes in the movie Schindler’s List. THAT Amon Goeth. (Shudder).

Amon Goeth

Yes, Amon Goeth had a black granddaughter who was born in 1970, long after he died.

Teege’s memoir is a very important book because of its great historical, psychological, and philosophical consequence. I’ve read a lot of Holocaust memoirs, but most of them have been from the perspective of the Jewish survivors and sometimes, like Anne Frank’s diary, the dead victims. This book examines the consequences for the descendents of the Nazi perpetrators—both 2nd (like Jennifer’s birth mother) and 3rd (like Jennifer) generations

Additionally, Teege’s perspective is unique because she herself is biracial and grew up in a transracial household—the only non-white family member. Teege also carries the baggage of an adoptee who suffers from abandonment issues.

In this story, we see her life as a child with her mother, Monika, and her grandmother, Ruth Irene Kalder, the mistress of Amon Goeth. That would be the mistress who lived on the premises of Płaszów, the concentration camp where Goeth routinely tortured and killed people.

We see her life with her white German family. Although her parents suffered from parenting and post-war issues themselves, they were kind, but clueless about parenting an adopted biracial child. That makes for an ambiguous relationship. But one of the most heart-warming aspects of the book is the relationship Teege had with her two brothers, the biological children of her parents. She was close to them from the beginning—and the closeness has lasted, particularly with her brother Matthias.

We see her eventually search for her biological father. And we see her reconnect with her Israeli friends (who have lost family in the Holocaust) after learning about her grandfather.

We also see Teege visiting Płaszów twice. One occurs right after she learns about her grandfather and after she has miscarried. The second occurs after she has had time to process this terrible news about her origins and hours after her father dies.

How history has affected Teege’s life, both before she knew the truth and afterward, makes for a fascinating read.

On Goodreads, I gave the book 4 stars because it didn’t have the greatest structure. If you notice the intensity flag in the middle it’s because of how she goes back to talk about her childhood. It’s all important to the overall story, but after such heavy-hitting information about the Nazi camp in the first chapters, it feels like a book about adoption for a little while. That’s ok, though, because it helps to learn so much more about Teege.

This is a book that should affect every reader in profound ways. What a story Teege has!


I should mention that the book was co-authored by Nikola Sellmair, a German journalist. The book shouldn’t be read as a work of creative nonfiction in the way of Mary Karr books, but is interesting in how it gives two viewpoints throughout–that of Jennifer Teege in traditional first person memoir and a more objective viewpoint from Sellmair (differentiated by different font).


Filed under Book Review, Books, Memoir, Nonfiction, Reading, Writing

Gotta Read Those Old Headlines Carefully!

My friend and professor Clare Goldfarb published a beautiful piece in Lilith that involves two of my favorite topics: memory and family history. If you recall, I reviewed her novel She Blinked here. You can read “Material Culture: The Samovar” here. I love how it focuses on an object to talk about family and history. Just gorgeous.

That would make a good writing prompt: write about a family heirloom.

I’m working on the Flash Essay course I’m taking right now, but in my research for essay #2, I found this interesting newspaper article from July 9, 1920. Look below the lake commerce article for that tiny article that begins “Seven Babies.”

When I first read this report, I took it at its word: that there were seven babies that had been killed or kidnaped.  They even clarified in the headline, although they tried to disguise it. I can just hear the argument.

“You can’t leave it so readers think these were real babies.”

“But it makes for better newspaper sales!”

“Put Kewpies in the headline!”

Grumble grumble. I’ll put it in, but in a way that fast readers won’t pay attention and will still think it’s 7 dead babies.


Haha. Is that all this woman can write about: dolls, cats, and birds?!

Speaking as a doll collector, I can tell you that Kewpies are very popular collector items, and I think this stash of 1920 dolls would be a hit today with the right person.  You can click through the following photo to the blogger who posted about her aunt’s kewpie collection a few years ago. It’s full of cute Kewpie photos, and, yes, you can find a real baby in the mix (though not in this exact photo)!

Today is my BIG birthday. I turn 60 today. I still feel like a smidgling (my made-up word for a wee one), but there it is: 60. That’s a whole lotta numbers!



Filed under #AmWriting, Dolls, Essay, Inspiration, Memoir, Research and prep for writing, Vintage American culture, Writing, Writing prompt

More Cats? Are You Serious?

I’m posting a day early this week because of my excitement.

Last Sunday night I had a dream that my cat Mac was still alive and playing with my other cats. They were frolicking with a cat from the shelter. Her name is Nakana, and I had fallen in love with her the first night we volunteered at the shelter. In my dream, Mac came up to Nakana and and wrapped one of his front legs around her, giving her a big bear hug.

I woke up ready to go pick up Nakana to give her a family (our family!). At PetSmart, where Nakana had languished without finding a home, they put up a sign. You can see her inside the blue box.

PetSmart is truly wonderful for the work they do for homeless animals. Look at how beautiful Nakana’s kennel was. But it wasn’t a home. She’s eight (eight!) years old, has been in the shelter since November, and she’s a pure black cat in a sea of homeless black cats.

Monday afternoon hubby and I brought her home with us. She’s my 60th birthday present, a little early!

And here she is:

And here we are:

OK, peeps, head on down to the nearest shelter and pick yourself out a sweet adult cat or dog (if you have the ability to do so).


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

All Cats Today

Pear Blossom is feeling better! The antibiotic and lots of extra attention have helped her. She’s eating enough cat food to be healthy, and she is choosing to sleep in her bed on the counter. It makes my heart feel like lifting off to see her this way. Everyone is still missing Mac, but we’re all carrying on.

At the end of last week, daughter’s kitty stopped eating and had to go to the vet in NYC. They couldn’t find the cause of the problem. Medicine seems to making her tummy feel better. Please keep Isabella Rose in your thoughts and prayers, but it looks like she might be better, too. (What is this, an epidemic?!)

On the subject of cats, my mother sent me an article about CatCon LA. Have you heard of it? Remember when I posted about the Phoenix Comicon? I wrote about it in Bordering on Geek.

I’m pretty sure I would enjoy CatCon much more! Lil Bub was there, posing for photos with people. Here is how the event is described on their website:

CatConLA 2015 took place in June, 2015 celebrating groundbreaking products and ideas in art and design, pop culture, and attitude… for cat people.

Part expo, part symposium, CatConLA showcased some of the world’s top cat-centric merchandise including furniture, art, toys and clothing for those of us who possess a great love of the feline, as well as conversations with some of the top cat experts in the world.

Over 10,000 people visited CatConLA during the weekend. At the end of the event, we donated over $33,000 to FixNation and Lil BUB’s Big Fund at the ASPCA.

Have you ever seen Lil Bub with his owner Mike Bridavsky? This photo was on the CatConLA website–click through the photo to get to their website.


Even if you don’t have a cat, do you ever watch cat videos online? Here‘s an article about the results of a survey conducted by an Indiana University researcher on cat video watching. The bottom line is that watching cats on video makes people feel good!!  Gee, I could have told them that.

There are apparently a lot of people writing about cats today. I found one new to me. This is where you can find him on Twitter. He writes humorously about his black cat Bear and on Twitter it’s all about what makes his cat “sad.” It’s pretty funny.

OK, I need to go and get me some more cat therapy at home and later this week at the shelter.

This kitty condo can be viewed on video here.


Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

More Tsuris: A Cat’s Tale of Mourning

We had a close call this past week. As you probably know, I lost my father in May. Then a week and a half ago, I lost my oldest cat Mac. It’s been a rough year.

For at least a week, I actually forgot my first book,  Doll God, was published this same year! I am not kidding either. What kind of ridiculous year is this?!

Anyway, 3 days or so after Mac died, cat #2, my sweet dear Pear Blossom, stopped eating! If you have or have ever had a cat, you might know that cats cannot go without food. Their livers go haywire. It’s very dangerous. I tried everything: a dozen kinds of canned food, fresh chicken, tuna, treats, kibble, egg, tiny hotdogs for babies, you name it. I had to resort to feeding her baby food (Gerber 2nd foods are the ones you want–safe and healthy for cats) with a syringe. I could get about 5-7 ccs in her before she would let it ooze out all over the couch. Yes, the couch because she wouldn’t move from the couch. For days she lay there.

I hadn’t had much time to grieve my father before Mac became sick and died. Now I had had no time at all to grieve Mac and my darling booboo girl looked as if she were going to die.

After $1,000 in vet bills (see how blithely I just wrote that hahaha), she seems to be coming back a little. The only medical problem they found is a UTI (she and my human daughter are both prone to those). But hubby and I are sure that she is grieving Mac.

It’s understandable. She is 15 1/2 and we’ve had her for 15 years. She was inseparable from Mac in those 15 years. In fact, and go ahead and think I’m weird (er), but I have a very long kitchen counter and have 3 cat beds lined up on it. She slept there every day with Mac and Felix. Tiger prefers to sleep elsewhere. Pear refuses to lie on the counter now.

Pear Blossom as Judge Judy

I’m praying she begins to eat better. She refuses most food I offer to her. But she seems to feel a little better.

POLL RESULTS: where do creative nonfiction writers come from?

Well, that wasn’t the name of the poll, but that is sort of what I was angling for. Here is a graphic of the results:

poll results


What I had wanted to know is what brings people to writing creative nonfiction. I was intrigued to read that many “never or rarely” write creative nonfiction. I’m pretty sure that a lot of blogs are creative nonfiction, rather than journalism, because as bloggers we can’t help but create public personas by what we write. If we write about our own lives at all, I would call it CNF.

It surprised me that not many others wrote poetry first and then moved to CNF, but I wasn’t surprised that many started with fiction. I read another nameless article that said that writers shouldn’t write more than one genre. I think it was mainly focused on “genre fiction,” but why can’t a writer write in another genre? Judy Blume has written for children and adults, and if that isn’t crossing genres, I don’t know what is. One book opens with a little girl praying to God. Another book opens with a man playing with his penis while an adult woman and mother watches. Hah. Better know which genre Blume book you’re buying ahead of time! Marie from 1WriteWay and I discussed this recently.

Did a book ever surprise you because you expected a different genre? Was it a pleasant surprise or a shock? A penis instead of a prayer? (Or a prayer instead of a penis?)


Filed under Blogging, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Children's Literature, Creative Nonfiction, Doll God, Fiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Reading, Writing

A Poll for Writers that Anybody Can Take

Are you a writer? (Hint: if you’re a blogger, you’re a writer)

Do you write in more than one genre? Do you want to expand to another genre?

Hippocampus Magazine, one of my favorite creative nonfiction lit mags, is advertising their August “HippoCamp.” On the website for the conference, they say this about “genre-hopping.”

Writers often take up creative nonfiction only after having established themselves in prior genres, bringing with them unique strengths that inflect their work, whether in the process of writing it, in the finished product, or both. This presentation features three writers who discuss the close relationship between creative nonfiction, poetry and fiction, as they share observations made in the process of moving from one genre to another, and on what we can gain as nonfiction writers when we make forays into other forms.

It’s true for me that I began with poetry and even fiction before I moved to creative nonfiction. I’ve noticed a fair number of poets move to creative nonfiction–even Carolyn Forché. It definitely surprised me the first time I saw her name as an editor on a volume of CNF.

I’d like you to respond to this poll, if you’re up to it.

Thanks for participating. I’ll post the results in a few days!

Grandma’s buttons

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Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Fiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Novel, Poetry, Writing, Writing goals

Mourning, Memories, Story, and Reflection

Between extra work, mourning, and a new project, I am wiped out. My cats have sad faces and obviously miss Mac. Felix, my big tabby, hid under the bed during a thunderstorm–something he’s never done before. He’s frightened not to have Mac around to protect him.

Grief has an insidious way about it. There is the past and then there are the stories we create about the past and our reflection upon them.

I’m still trying to rise out of the swamp around me.

To that end, along with Marie from 1WriteWay (yay!), I’m taking a four week course from Apiary Lit in “Flash Essay on the Edge.” You’re right: the title is perfect for me right now.  I’ll keep you posted. When we’re done, Marie and I will review the course.

Have a wonderful fourth of July. When I was a kid, I used to spend it on the lake with my father.


Filed under Blogging, Cats and Other Animals, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals, Writing prompt, Writing Tips and Habits