Monthly Archives: May 2016

Slupiness is Next to Happiness

As you know, last week I went to the shelter and sprang Ms. Slupe out of there. In the car, I felt like we were Thelma and Louise getting the heck out of dodge.

Poor kid had been there two stinken years. Can you imagine living in that room for two years without a break? No birthday or Christmas. No vacation. Not even a staycation. Every single day and night dealing with new cats and sometimes kittens. Wondering who might stalk you. Who might annoy you. Who might nip you on the tush. Who will kick you off the cat tree, out of the litter box, or away from the food bowl. Listening to dogs bark on the other side of the wall 24/7.  Seeing and hearing the sad stories of other cats. Never being able to put down your guard and just stretch out and put up a leg and lick yourself leisurely.

Slupe had a reputation at the shelter. Not a bad one. But not a good one either. Slupe kind of faded into the background, got holes in her fur (from stress), shrank from touch or occasionally nipped if someone persisted. She resisted going in a carrier. She wasn’t a candidate for PetSmart adoptions.

But she and I clicked, and I knew she was a very very sensitive soul. It got so that even though I still have Kana/Tiger troubles I couldn’t let her stay at the shelter a day longer. Who knows when some new cat would bring in a disease or ringworm and Slupe would have to go back into ISO until she was better (ISO is way worse than living in the roaming room). Without the ability to go to PetSmart and without a personality that would garner attention from visiting potential adopters, Slupe was doomed to stay much longer than two years.

So she’s here now. I have no idea what the future holds for any of us, but she is reveling in the peaceful sanctuary of her new bedroom. From the moment I opened the carrier to let her out, she has been the sweetest, gentlest, most loving and curious cat!!! Everything I wrote in paragraph three is all wrong: that isn’t Slupe. That was living in the shelter for two years. This is Slupe.

Slupe has the radio, a CD of birdsongs and one of whale music, and then I let her listen to my daughter singing on my iPhone.  She was amused at her version of “The More You Ruv Someone” from Avenue Q, but when my daughter’s “Different Drum” (the same one Linda Ronstadt sang) came on, she came right up to the cell phone and almost lay down on top of it so she could listen up close. Later, I repeated the song, and she was mesmerized all over again.

I’m not surprised. I like it, too, and Slupe is my buddy.

So let me tell you what my mother said. Heh. “I’m not sure I’m going to tell anybody you got a 5th cat. It’s been hard enough to tell them you have four cats.” Bahahahaha. Yup, that’s Mom. Her way of telling me I’m a crazy cat lady, and that it matters what her friends think.

Slupe chilling with no worries about some meanie bothering her

The jury is still out on whether I did something really stupid or if this will all work out. I was glad that hubby was game to help her, too.

When have you done something on impulse even though you knew it was going to be a big production because you thought it was the right thing to do?

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Filed under Art and Music, Cats and Other Animals, Lifestyle, Nonfiction, Writing

Catchall: a receptacle for odds and ends.

OK, here is my catchall post. Last year at this time my father had just passed away and I had my second set of hummingbird babies to look after. Mac, my oldest cat, was dying.

Since the hummingbird had laid her eggs outside my window two years in a row, we were hopeful she would return this year. I suspect she too has now passed away. Her nest is empty and disintegrating.

Why is this woman putting a watermark on this ugly photo, you might ask. I would ask that, even if I didn’t articulate it. Answer: just cause. It’s part of my turning over a new leaf goal.

If you think this is the only abandoned nest around me, think again. There are at least two more.

nest 2

If you haven’t seen this video about a hummingbird, it will start your weekend off right!

What else is happening (or not happening) in my life?

Flowers are happening, thank goodness.

The above flowers are a sample from a decorative pot. We have these in beds, too. After realizing that a lot of colors (pink, purple, pastel, YELLOW) don’t look well with our gold-toned stucco, we found that by putting a variety of strong colors together–reds, oranges, burgundies, rusts, blues, whites–that they look great!

Lots of cactus flowers this year, too!

The reason I leave a lot of the gardening to my live-in gardener is because Arizona gardening can be dangerous. This is just one reason why.

These agave thorns have messed up my gardener more than once. Very very painful.

Although I pick up my mail outside amidst the flowers and empty nests, I bring it inside to open it (usually). Yesterday I got a “catalog” from the symphony with next year’s options. Look at this.

Shostakovich and Cello right next to each other! I don’t think so. Not after my last experience with both. I wrote about it in Hypersensitive to a Sound?

But the good news is they are performing Vaughn Williams. Woot!

Another item that came in the mail was a lion costume for my cats. It looked so cute online, but when I got it I saw that it wasn’t for cats at all, but for kittens. To try it on Felix, I had to add a long piece of velcro under his chin. And it doesn’t look near as cute as in the advertisement because it needs a tiny kitten face so that the “mane” overwhelms it. But Felix is very good humored and let me fool around with it anyway.

So what else is new around here, you might ask? Well, you might not, but I will ask it for you. Just . . . so . . . I . . . can . . . show you the new resident at my house!

 

Yes, we are fostering Slupe!!! I couldn’t let her stay at the shelter any longer. TWO YEARS. She has her own room for now, with a view of bunnies, birds, and lizards. I will write more after she’s been here a little longer.

Everyone, have a lovely weekend. For my American peeps, Happy Memorial Day. Keeping those I’ve lost in my heart.

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Art and Music, Cats and Other Animals, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Inspiration, Writing

Who Can Put Humpty Together Again? (Hint: We Can)

When I was a teen, it was popular to believe that nurture was far superior to nature–and that almost anything in nature could be overcome. I took that with me into parenting when we adopted our children as babies from Korea. Even if my kids were to come with problems, my love and care and brains would allow them to thrive. (Don’t judge me–it was the 80s).

Hahahaha. My kids are wonderful people, both because of their upbringing (I hope) and most definitely because of their genes. But this isn’t actually about them.

I was so stupid  naive.

One reason I was naive is that I didn’t realize that my own genes were so flawed. After obtaining 23andme medical information for my daughter and me, I can tell you that my daughter’s genes are far less saddled with disease than mine. That goes for physical and mental diseases.

Another reason for my  naïveté lay in my supposition that nature and nurture can be taken apart.  Is behavior caused by nature or nurture? It’s caused by both and they are more closely tied together than you can imagine.

The experimental field of science that deals with this stuff is called behavioral epigenetics. What behaviorial epigeneticists have discovered is that our genes have been altered and coded by the experiences of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. WOWSA. This is so cool. Sometimes science blows my mind.

If your grandfather was ignored left to his own devices by his parents, as I suspect mine was, it not only had an effect on his personality, but it probably changed his DNA–and he passed those altered genes on to my mother who then passed them on to me!!!

So experiences in pogrom-ravaged shtetls, potato famines, slavery, and alcoholic families have encoded our genes for anxiety, depression, and a whole host of other problems.

Don’t think this only works in the negative. Positive adventures in life and strong support and love experienced in childhood encode genes in good ways, as well.

From a writer’s perspective, the new field validates the work I’m doing in Kin Types, my poetry chapbook based on family history research.  All the experiences of my ancestors have influenced (or have had the opportunity to influence) who I am today.  I always felt this was true, but had no idea how it worked and no proof that my hunch was correct. I had a hard time even assuring myself that my studies into my ancestors had any importance other than how it brought details of history alive to me.  But family history done right (it shouldn’t be a study in dates and places) actually teaches a person about him or herself.

Does any of my family history have meaning for my kids? Or my brother (who was also adopted) and his children? The meaning it has is that the people who have made me who I am have contributed to their lives. They don’t have genes encoded with the same adventures and tragedies that mine are, but they have reaped the benefits and drawbacks of being raised by or with someone who has.

Think of the power of this knowledge. New ways of treating mental illness can be developed. And we can take negatively encoded genes and, over generations, change them for the future as we provide positive NURTURING, support, and love to others. It’s not true about Humpty Dumpty. All the pieces can be put back together because genes can be improved — and not through Frankenstein-type science, but through our actions in this world.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Essay, Family history, History, Inspiration, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry Collection, Writing

Am I Producing Leaves or Flowers?

Lots of ideas for blog posts have crossed my mind lately. Then they have kind of walked in reverse back out of my mind. Everything seems “deeper” than I can handle currently.  You should see how cute Kana is sleeping next to me, by the way. I figured out how to keep her from annoying Tiger who sleeps in the corner of the window seat: I put a big piece of two way tape across the opening where Kana would lie to intimidate comfort Tiger. Tiger can walk over the tape to get to her safety spot, but Kana can’t lie there without discomfort. So far, so good!

I just noticed that the two hibiscus bushes that flank my front door have gone in different directions this year. In the past, they looked very similar. But look at them now! Let’s call this one A.

And this one will be B.

Hibiscus B has a thick head of dark, glossy leaves, but few blossoms. Hibiscus A is rich in blossoms, but the foliage is lighter-colored, less shiny, and sparse.

Maybe something went awry in the gardening (see my live-in gardener about that).

Or maybe it’s a metaphor. If we’re busy making leaves, we don’t have enough energy left for blossoms. And if we’re sprouting blossoms like crazy we neglect our leaves?

What have I been up to lately besides work? Well, more work. And some writing. And doctor appointments–catch up time of the year, ya know.

Only question is: am I producing leaves or flowers right now?

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Lifestyle

Hypersensitive to a Sound?

I attended a concert at the Phoenix Symphony over the weekend. Several times a year I attend either a classical or pops concert. I’m no expert on music, but I have pretty specific likes. Show tunes (from Oklahoma to Hamilton), mid-century standards (40s-70s), bluegrass, very standard jazz, and the Romantics (Mendelssohn, Chopin, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Holst, and Vaughn Williams). I also love marches and waltzes. And Adele. k.d. lang. So my tastes are specific and even a little sentimental (especially for such an extreme INTJ, but my theory is that is why . . . ).

It seemed to me that my musical dislikes–as well as those of most people–are not as passionate as musical likes. After all, music I don’t like just leaves me cold. Misogynistic rap, for instance. I just don’t care about it. B.J. Thomas. Beyoncé. [Shrugs shoulders].

But this performance at the symphony proved that I could have an almost violent aversion to certain music. If I can, maybe other people do, too?

I picked this concert because it featured Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. This is a Romantic symphonic suite based on the story of A Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) where the Sultan puts each wife to death after spending one night in bed with her. Scheherazade saves her own life by telling a new story each night and ending on a cliff hanger.  I can tell you that MY night ended well because it was a STUNNING concert. Teddy Abrams, the guest conductor, was marvelous, and the piece so gorgeous. Our concertmaster, Steven Moeckel (such a rock star), played the violin solos.  I kept catching myself grinning like a fool throughout.

Our symphony always puts the featured piece as the second act portion of the concert. Before the intermission we heard two pieces. The first was, I dunno, something short by Stravinsky. But the larger piece featured a fabulous Israeli cellist playing Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, op .107.

As I suggested earlier, I had a violent reaction to this piece.  As in I despised it. Anxiety filled my body until I was tensed so tight I couldn’t move a toe. I wanted to run out of there screaming. You think nails on a chalkboard is bad? This was that times 1000. It screeched and sawed right through me. The audience loved the piece.

At first I thought it was Shostakovich, but I didn’t remember having that reaction before. Then it hit me that although violins (and fiddles!) are my favorite instrument, my limited musical knowledge hasn’t brought me near cello solos too often. What a wicked, nasty instrument, I thought. So I checked out some Youtube videos of cello playing. Nope, it was not the cello itself. Not only were some of those solos pretty, I’m pretty sure I have heard them before.

I found this piece played by someone else on Youtube. Ick. It’s definitely the piece and what it does to that poor instrument that caused my distress.

This might be part of my Highly Sensitive Person schtick or it could be my ADHD. Both those conditions can create a sensitivity to fabrics, etc., so why not certain sounds?

It’s important that you take away that the audience went wild for the concert. I mean WILD. Phoenix symphony audiences are always smart and responsive, but they were screaming for Abrams and the symphony at the end.

I wonder if anybody else felt physically assaulted by the middle piece?

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Art and Music, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Writing

The Dilemma of Writing Competition Protocol

I started reading over the guidelines for a few writing competitions and was once again annoyed by a dilemma that they provoke.

Most of the contests tell you all the wonderful stuff they can think of about the poet/writer who is judging. Then they slam you with this one.

Poets/writers are not eligible to submit a manuscript if they know the judge or the [insert name of press here] personally.

What does this mean regarding the judge? If you’re her father or sister or niece? I get that. If you’re her best friend? If you took three courses in an MFA program from her? That all makes sense.

But what if you took a workshop a zillion years ago and that workshop was a total of less than six hours and she has absolutely no idea who you are?

Does that count?

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Pear says Hi!

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book contest, Writing, Writing contest, Writing Talk, Writing Tips and Habits

The Doll Collection: A Book Review

Poet Nicole Cooley, in her introduction to The Doll Collection, makes the connection for readers:

I have always thought that dolls and poems are a natural combination. Ever since I was a child, my dolls were part of my writing, as I arranged them into orphanages with my sister and wrote my own stories and poems about them. Now, I love to bring images of dolls to my poetry workshops for writing exercises.

I am as excited about bringing dolls and poetry together as Cooley seems to be. But she has taken it a step further by bringing dolls into the writing classroom. In the beginning, her students are reluctant to take dolls seriously as a muse for writing. But then she describes how they end up creating “uncanny, strange, frightening, and beautiful images.”

Diane Lockward chose this subject for the first book of her new press, Terrapin Books, and she has edited with great care. Because no poet has more than one poem in the anthology the variety of styles and subjects piques the imagination.  I’ve never read an anthology where I felt such excitement at each turn of the page.

My favorite poem in the book—and realize that this is saying a whole heckuva lot because the poems are stunning—is Christopher Citro’s “The Secret Lives of Little Girls.” This is a poem I wish I had written. I’m achingly jealous of it.

The Secret Lives of Little Girls

 

How loudly you can groan if you just use your eyes.

Children are adept at this, twelve-year-old girls especially.

Alone, high in mountain caves along cliffsides

accessible solely by toeholds and birds of prey,

they deflate and slouch a bit in ease.

At such times they might play jacks or jump a rope,

its woven line slapping the cave roof, freeing

gypsum flowers to flutter down in fragments

over reeking hides and doll parts piled in corners,

a sleeping area of matted glossy magazines,

a fire ring of rolled socks in parti-colored balls,

simple flint implements, a clamshell for stripping pelts,

small animal bones for holding a bow in the hair,

a pompom here and there caked with glitter and mud.

Hidden in the back beyond reach of firelight, a dollhouse—

perfectly split down the center as eggs rarely are—

where the gods live. The mommy god and the daddy god

stand facing each other either side of a four-poster bed,

a cellophane fire in the living room hearth below.

A dining room table set for three, three plates, three napkins,

and cutlery—a clear plastic goblet at each place.

In the daughter chair, an acorn balanced atop an acorn.

A smile scraped into the top one,

presumably by sharpened antler bone.

I’m imagining a little girl’s room as an eagle’s aerie—a difficult-to-reach, glamorous, gritty, dangerous space.

But there are so many other showstoppers. Do you know what a Frozen Charlotte is? Nicole brings up this doll in her introduction, and Susan de Sola’s “Frozen Charlotte” explores this doll/dead girl. Read the book to find out the story behind the doll.

“Doll Heads,” by Richard Garcia, will rip your guts out with its brutal reality.

There is even a poem, written by Susan Elbe, about Colleen Moore’s dollhouse at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.  My own book Doll God might have its roots in that dollhouse. When I was a kid, we used to visit the museum regularly—and each time I refused to leave until we toured the doll house, just once more.

You will love these poems.  They will grab you at a visceral level and not let you go.

Go. read.

 

 

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Doll God, Dolls, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing

“And So It Goes”

I mentioned some time back that I had a flash nonfiction piece coming out in a journal called Toasted Cheese. There aren’t a lot of places that publish flash nonfiction (as opposed to flash fiction like my “Parking Lot Superhero” story). At least I haven’t found too many.

Here is the latest issue of Toasted Cheese, and in it is my story “And So It Goes.” I believe that if my name was taken off this and Superhero that nobody would guess the same person wrote both of them.  The only thing in common is that both have an experimental quality to them. In the Story Shack piece, I used a structural twist to get to the essence of the story. In this new story, I begin at both the beginning and the end and then move through the story forward and backward.

“And So It Goes” is about my great-great-grandfather Pieter Mulder and my great-great-grandmother Neeltje Gorsse Mulder.

You can find the story here at “And So It Goes.”

 

“And So It Goes” is prose, but it will be in my chapbook collection based on my genealogical research. I expect to have two or three prose pieces, as well as poetry and prose poems.

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Remember that Toasted Cheese provides writing prompts and creative blog posts about writing.

On February 29, I posted this sample from December 15, 2015. You can find April’s writing prompts here.

What Do You Recommend?

 

By Baker

  1. Recommend on social media at least one thing you’ve read this year. If you don’t use social media, recommend in person. Independent authors are particularly grateful for recommendations.
  2. Create some recommendation business cards and leave them with your favorite works in the bookstore. You can print them at home. They could be as simple as the word “recommended” with a thumbs-up or a shelf card that lists why you recommend the book. Don’t put stickers on or in the books.
  3. Ask for recommendations at a used book store and/or independent bookstore. If you’re lucky, your local chain bookstore will have fellow book lovers who are well-versed enough to recommend as well.
  4. Recommend a book to a friend on Goodreads.
  5. While you’re there, write a recommendation of a book. If you’re stuck for one, think of a book you discovered on your own and write the review as though you’re speaking to your younger self.

 

I’d like to remind you that today is Holocaust Remembrance Day (began last evening) and Cinco de Mayo. Two completely different events to ponder, both related to war.  Look at how much one day can contain. It reminds me that in writing it’s important to think small to go big.

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, History, Literary Journals, Nonfiction, Poetry Collection, Writing

Where to Find a Parking Lot Superhero

Just realized that my flash fiction piece “Parking Lot Superhero” was published by Story Shack two weeks ago! Yikes, how did I lose track of time? Speaking of time, the magazine gives an estimate of five minutes to read it ;).

PARKING LOT SUPERHERO

The story was illustrated by artist Hannah Nolan.

Thanks so much to the editor Martin Hooijmans and to Hannah.

This is my first attempt at flash fiction.  I like how fiction gives me more freedom with structure than nonfiction does, and the flash length is fun to work with. It’s challenging to be concise but also rewarding to complete a story that is this short.

Do you read and/or write flash fiction that isn’t serialized? Where the whole story has to be read in five minutes? Do you prefer flash fiction or the traditional short story length and why?

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Pic of a vintage police car found just outside the Grand Canyon. With a character like Jack (in my story), the protagonist and her friend didn’t need the police.

 

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Filed under Fiction, Flash Fiction, Literary Journals, Publishing, Reading, Writing

More Arizona

  • This year we travelled to Sedona, Jerome, Cottonwood, the Grand Canyon, Prescott, Williams, and Montezuma’s Castle, all in two days.

That’s what the Sedona sunrise looks like.

Here is your chance to see the classic Luanne ponytail–always just off center as though the middle of the back of my head is just too far to manage.

 

The slide show is the Grand Canyon. It turned out to be overcast that day, but the rain held off at least.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The squirrels at the Grand Canyon beg for food. They are adorably cute, but it’s kind of sad that people have unwittingly trained them this way. This little guy gave me vertigo because he would go very near the edge of the walkway.

 

Sort of between Sedona and Phoenix is Montezuma’s Castle, which is the remains of a town that existed between the 12th and 14th centuries. The people, called the Sinagua,  lived on the face of the mountain in a beehive of rooms that are known as “cliff dwellings.” Only a few parts of the town remain.

 

The settlement was built along Beaver Creek.

I used to bemoan the fact that we have all these spindly trees in Arizona–Palo Verde, Mesquite, Sweet Acacia. At this national monument I discovered an actual Real Tree of Arizona that is not an evergreen. The Arizona Sycamore! Beautiful and wise . . . .

 

 

The bark looks like camouflage clothing.

I’ve had too much company in the past few months to get much writing done. But I also feel that I need to start a new project and haven’t landed on the one I really want to tackle. It’s not writer’s block–in part because I don’t have much time to think anyway and also because I actually want to write but need a project that feels right at this time to focus on.

Until then, #notreallywriting. heh

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As you know, I typically don’t post much political and didn’t post any petitions for the elephants on my elephant book post, although they are in danger of becoming extinct in 15-20 years if humans don’t change their ways. But I am posting the following. You can stop reading here and it won’t insult me. But I can’t not post this information because this abuse of horses and mules is almost in my own backyard.

Please consider signing this petition for better treatment of the pack animals at the Grand Canyon. The horses are said to be “punched, kicked, push off the sides of mountains when injured, starved to death, without water and rest for long periods of time?” I even read the yelp reviews that talk about the horrific abuse of the animals.

You can sign here:  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/815/945/903/.

If you are interested in more information you can read this:

About This Petition

A concerned group of citizens have started the “Stop Animal ViolencE” (SAVE)  Foundation to protect the pack animals in Havasupai from abuse. These horses and mules travel from Hualapi Hilltop to Havasu Falls daily, and there have been an overwhelming number of reports of rampant and heinous animal abuse.

We are calling on the Havasupai Tribal Council to establish a minimum standard of care for all horses and mules living in Supai, AZ. Until it is confirmed that these standards have been adopted and implemented, we will boycott trips to the Havasu Falls that use horses and mules.

This treatment that has been witnessed by many tourists around the world is nothing short of horrifying and violent for both animals and humans. SAVE has collected first-hand accounts of extreme animal abuse and neglect by specific violent people. Recently, a Havasupai man was charged with four counts of animal abuse.  

We are turning to you, the public, to help these defenseless animals. We are committed to the cessation of violence against animals by these violent individuals. Please help us in putting a stop to this violence and bringing about not only healing for these peaceful, deserving animals, but with your signature, change.

Do you feel pain and agony seeing this photo and imagining the terror of these horses? We have eyewitness accounts of these horses being punched, kicked, pushed off the sides of mountains when injured, starved to death, without water and rest for long periods of time. It’s a death camp for pack animals.

So, please, reach into your pain and feel the ferocity of compassion well up in your heart. And then take action. Sign this petition to demand that the Havasupai Tribal Council adopt SAVE’s guidelines for a minimum standard of care for these horses and mules. For you, for me, for the earth and for all the inhabitants who will suffer if this abuse continues.  Please, do not post anything hateful against an entire group of people. These crimes are being committed by certain violent people, not by a group. We will not accept prejudicial, rude, or inappropriate comments targeted toward entire groups of people.

If you read down to this point, thank you SO MUCH for caring about the horses and mules.

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