Monthly Archives: October 2019

Setting and Keeping Goals, A New Thing for Me

Thank you all so much for your kindness about my uncle’s passing. It felt too daunting to respond to all your condolences, but know that I appreciate each one. I closed the comments over there.

Tiger is feeling better. All of a sudden she started eating much better, and I have not had to take her for sub q fluids lately. I hope she stays well now. Everyone seems to be feeling ok currently (knock on wood). A friend brought them all fresh catnip yesterday, so that was well appreciated by the furkids.

Remember how I posted two weeks ago that wah wah wah I might not make my publication goal for 2019, which by the way is the first time I’ve ever set such a goal for myself. I don’t typically set goals for myself. Even if I am nudged, like on Goodreads, to do so, I usually forget about them. But this one I kept in mind throughout the year. When I last reported in, I was one publication short of my goal. Miraculously, I have had three more acceptances, and I believe these poems and an essay should all be published before the end of the year which will put me two over my goal!

Full disclosure: I also  had two rejections in the same period of time!

My big news is that I have begun The Artist’s Way (TAW) program, reading through the book of the same name by Julia Cameron and doing the required and encouraged activities. The two main ones are morning pages and artist dates. Morning pages are three full pages of journaling, preferably written by hand first thing each morning. Artist dates must be done solo, and they require doing something that provides a fresh viewpoint or a burst of inspiration. Then each chapter has other assignments.

While the chapters are meant to be fulfilled in one week, I have discovered that many people take from two to four weeks to work on a chapter. I think I prefer this. I began with the one week plan, but three weeks into this project I felt that I was just scratching the surface of what I could accomplish. I joined a local support group that was just starting out, and we will meet each month to discuss our work with one chapter. So I plan to slow down and dig in deeper.

What is The Artist’s Way? The subtitle sums it up neatly: “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.” It’s a way of eliminating what gets in our way to maximizing our creativity. Writer’s block? Writers who have done the program swear it can remove the block. This book has been around for twenty-five years, so there are a lot of people working the program.

One of my favorite writing theory books is Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Not only did she write the foreword for my edition, but she and Cameron are friends.

I have already made progress, although the morning pages have been very difficult for me. I wake up to a lot of important emails (perhaps, in part, because I am three hours behind the east coast). In addition, my six cats won’t leave me alone until they are fed and the overnight poos scooped. And at least twice a week something “happens” in the early morning that has to be addressed: exploded water heater that has flooded a room, the early morning call I got that my uncle had passed away, a spilled cat water bowl on my alder floor. Then I want my caffeine, too. I have worked out a compromise. I will complete my morning pages before I go to bed that night. That means I will try to finish them in the AM, but if not, I will do them at some point in the PM.

Now that I have that worked out, it’s more a matter of what to write. I never have an actual writer’s block for poetry, nonfiction, or blogging, but for the morning pages I tend to write like this: “Halfway through now. What should I write about? Um, how about writing about the color red? Color should be the sixth sense. It deserves it’s own place, not just part of vision. OK, what now? I don’t want to write about red. It feels boring.”

This is an idea of what I write about. We are not “allowed” to show our morning pages to anyone.

For my artist date this week I went to the craft store and looked through every single aisle, at all the various types of craft materials sold. My favorite part of a craft store is the items that are displayed by color. I love color coordination.

I plan to keep on with the program, so that might actually be my second set of goals that I am making and will keep. Another good reason to stretch out the chapters, though, is that I don’t have to give up on what is most important. Mom is coming to visit for two weeks for Thanksgiving and her birthday. I don’t plan to do much TAW while she’s here, but rather spend as much time as I can with her. She’ll be 85 on December 2. I might not even do my morning pages on many of those days. We’ll see.

Happy Halloween! I love the fall holidays, and for Halloween I love the witches. I tell my kids this is a self-portrait. They think I’m kidding, but I’m really not.

Remember: you are loved! Make it a great week.

 

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Goodbye to My Uncle

Last Wednesday my Uncle Frank passed away. A month or so before, he had suddenly found it difficult to walk, so he asked a neighbor to take him to the ER. Before that moment, he seemed in remarkably good physical and mental health for someone 90 years old. Although they didn’t know what was wrong, they admitted my uncle to the hospital where he fluctuated between lucidity and not. They had him on a strong dose of morphine because the pain in his back and legs was so bad.

Then they sent him to a nearby nursing home where he spent his days slumped uncomfortably in a wheelchair. That is the point where my cousin, Frank’s only living child, called me.

For a few weeks, Frank went back and forth between the hospital and the nursing home, but he was never given a diagnosis. Even without the morphine, he began to lose his lucidity. It became impossible to talk to him on the phone because he didn’t know what to do with a telephone and his words were slurred.

Although it’s a long drive, my mother and brother in Kalamazoo were able to drive to Arkansas to see him. They reported that after their initial visit he no longer recognized anyone, so I decided there was no point in flying there to visit. My brother and cousin thought he might have a couple of weeks “left,” but still nobody knew what was wrong with him. The day after the nursing home decided to get him an appointment with a blood doctor, he passed away. My cousin called me from Uncle Frank’s bedside.

We still don’t know what was wrong with him. I think the nursing home did the best they could as they are not doctors, but I have to wonder what went on at that hospital. I have no legal rights in the matter, though, so there it lies.

I am left with the memories. My father and Uncle Frank were, like many twins, very very close. Frank also had a long and happy marriage with my Aunt Dolly who passed away from leukemia less than a year and a half ago. He would have been 91 the day after Christmas, the birthday he shared with his twin brother, my father. With Frank gone, since I am the oldest of the cousins, I am now the oldest person descended from my grandmother.

The first time the gardener and I spoke with Uncle Frank after he was admitted to the nursing home, the gardener made a joke to Uncle Frank about “his scotch.” Uncle Frank enjoyed scotch and soda, and he loved to cook and to eat. He once owned a steakhouse in Chicago, although most of his career was spent as a car salesman. He was very social and had a great many friends, many of them decades younger than himself. The gardener asked what he was drinking at the nursing home. In a very cryptic comment, Frank said, “Whatever Dolly had.” This comment chilled me.

After all, Frank’s white blood count was up, and his worst symptoms were the pain from his back and the inability to walk. These are all symptoms of leukemia.

I’ve written on this blog about visiting Uncle Frank after Aunt Dolly passed away–and also attached a link about the time he escaped death by a mass murderer. You can find both links here: Links to Uncle Frank articles

I could have selected a lot of photos for this blog post, especially ones where Frank is with my father and with Dolly. Or even one of myself with my beloved uncle. Instead, I chose a photo of him in his U.S. Navy sailor uniform (he served right after WWII) and a Christmas photo from Grandma’s home in 1967. On his lap is my cousin Leah (age 7) who passed away 16 years ago.

Rest in peace, Uncle Frank, Aunt Dolly, and Leah.

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Could A Cat Do What I Do?

I had a little upswing there with the poem publications, but I am not the most prolific poet and then there are the rejections that do stack up, too, so I am one publication short of my 2019 goal. Yes, there are still 2.5 months left, but because there is usually a bit of time between acceptance and publication, it is getting squeakingly close. How will I treat myself if I don’t make my goal? Gently, but firmly. I will wonder what I could have done differently. Write more poems? Write more better poems? Read that as “better poems,” not “more better” hahaha. Do I need to use a better system for send outs? Do I need to send out more? Do I need to target different publications? Lower my standards for publications? Count each poem and essay separately instead of the number of publications? (That would be cheating!) This is called WRITER INSECURITY. No matter what, a writer doubts herself and questions herself over and over. At least I think most writers do.

What would happen if I just let my cat Tiger write a poem? She likes to walk back and forth on my keyboard. In fact, she frequently intrudes on my emails to reader jeannieunbottled and types her own little secret messages.

 

 

Tiger just saw “herself” typing away above and got very very interested!

What if I submitted a poem written by Tiger? What would happen?

Tiger, by the way, continues to get sub q fluids administered a couple of times a week. It seems to make her feel better, and she doesn’t get upset about it. She seems to realize that it’s for her health.

My Pear, who is 19.5 years old, lies comfortably on the couch all day every day. She seems content so that makes me happy.

And frees me up to worry about the others! OK, I am purposely in denial about my dear Pear.

Friday we traded out the summer flowers with new winter flowers. I’m not impressed with the quality of flowers from the local nursery, but too late to complain as they are all planted now. For the front flower bed, we decided on a simpler color scheme this winter: red geraniums and white snapdragons. Usually we go with 5-6 colors for a more dramatic effect, but we were too lazy this year.

Make it a fabulous week!

Even if I am sitting next to Pear or Tiger or another cat, Perry plops on top of me and wiggles around until I am holding him in my arm.

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Poem Up at Wilderness House Literary Review

My third fall publication is in Wilderness House Literary Review. Thanks so much to Poetry Editor Kate Hanson Foster. No relation, although Hanson is my surname of birth.

Playing Word with Adrienne Rich

Do you know the work of poet Adrienne Rich? One of my favorites. My poem originated as I meditated upon the opening line of a Rich poem. It is the 7th in a modern version of a sonnet sequence called Twenty-One Love Poems.

THE RICH POEM:

VII

What kind of beast would turn its life into words?
What atonement is this all about?
–and yet, writing words like these, I’m also living.
Is all this close to the wolverines’ howled signals,
that modulated cantata of the wild?
or, when away from you I try to create you in words,
am I simply using you, like a river or a war?
And how have I used rivers, how have I used wars
to escape writing of the worst thing of all—
not the crimes of others, not even our own death,
but the failure to want our freedom passionately enough
so that blighted elms, sick rivers, massacres would seem
mere emblems of that desecration of ourselves?

Notice how the second line says, “What atonement is this all about?” Is writing a form of atonement? This is a good time to ponder that question because Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement begins at sundown today and lasts until sundown tomorrow.

 

 

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Poem Up at Burningword Literary Journal

It is October, which means that it is OctPoWriMo, a poetry writing month. I can’t write one a day this month, but the special month itself did encourage me to write one this weekend using inspiration from the Plath Poetry Project.

Burningword Literary Journal has published my poem “Elegy.” This poem is on a solo ride with emotion and maybe shows a bit of my love of Sylvia Plath poetry (it is not the poem I wrote this weekend) and for fairy tales.

ELEGY

 

For those who don’t realize, an elegy is a type of poem. It is a lament for someone who has died or something that is lost. Anything described as elegiac is mournful.

Are you going to write a poem or more this month?

In honor of OctPoWriMo, I am offering HALF PRICE on any poetry consulting  that begins in the month of October.

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