Monthly Archives: August 2020

Cats and Texas and Actors and Such

Nothing much has changed here except that I am working a lot too much, it’s too hot outside (and we never did get our monsoon), and I think Kana throws up hairballs every other day because with her IBD she has difficulty passing the fur as she ought to.

Here she is in her new Cat Person chalet. I didn’t make a chalet last time because I thought Kana, my box queen, was too big. But SHE doesn’t think so.

For fun I thought I’d share an old poem with you. It was published in the journal Front Range, Issue 6, Spring 2011. It’s more narrative than usual for me, but I remember having fun writing it. After my daughter graduated from the University of Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner!), the gardener and I drove back to Arizona through Texas. So did daughter and son in daughter’s car. It was a fun family trip, and it was kind of relaxing that it was in two vehicles. Two years before her graduation, my daughter had performed in summer stock in Texas (Granbury and Galveston). So the last time I had been in Texas before daughter’s graduation was twice the summer she was there–once to Granbury and once to Galveston. The old theatre in Granbury has been the scene of John Wilkes Booth sightings. The idea is that he didn’t die when the history books tell us he did, but instead he went to Texas and got back into acting.

***

Booth Made Footprints in Texas after Escaping the Burning Barn

 

John Wilkes Booth didn’t die an assassin’s death

but like a schoolteacher in love with Shakespeare,

in his bed confessing with precise diction

 

though at that point not a soul believed him

because he acted the role of nobody

so authentically that his own frustrated soul

 

banned from acclaim for what was left for him,

returns to the scene of his last applause

and blesses the opera house actors

 

who can hear his boots slipping down the aisle.

My daughter and her castmates searched

in every shop, in the fly system

 

weights and pulleys, the rotting velvets and silks

wishing not to find him knowing if they found him

they would silence something important

 

something bigger than he was back in Washington,

or on national tour, in the middle

of the country, an opera house in Granbury

 

which is to be expected in a state

like Texas which magnifies everything

under its glass where you drive and drive

 

for days and are still in the same damn state,

a state of industrial stupor.

We aren’t lulled by the long grasses, the stretches

 

between.  Count the oil derricks

vying with the windmills, the refineries,

and the ghost of boot prints in the dust

 

so enormous I worry that our kids

driving ahead of us on the Interstate

on the way home from college graduation

 

will disappear into one, swallowed

into the mirage as if they were never

part of us, leaving us searching for prints.

***

Do you like cats? Do you like veterans? Do you think a 95-year-old man should have a good birthday even during Covid? Then you might want to pull out your box of birthday cards and fill one out for the human grandfather of Bob Graves, the Writing Cat. Bob looks so much like my Mackie Man (RIP, 1998-2015).

This is what Bob sent in his Bobington Post yesterday:

Operation Birthday Card!

by Bob Graves, The Writing Cat

We thought it would be best if everyone sent cards/notes to us and then the woman will package them all up together to send to her dad. The address is below.

 

If at all possible, please try to send to us by Friday, September 11th.  This will allow the woman time to package them all together and send to the birthday boy.  Since he lives so far away from us, she will not be able to deliver them in person.

 

A little about Mr Graves…

  • His name is Robert (Bob) Graves
  • I was named after him because I remind the woman of him
  • He’ll be turning 95 years old on September 17th
  • He’s sharp as a tack and loves receiving mail
  • He’s a WWII Veteran
  • He loves both cats and dogs
  • He attended Georgia Tech

Please know in advance that we are so grateful for each of you, whether you send a card/note or not.  Let me know if you have any questions about this very special project. We will keep you posted on how many cards we receive!

 

Very truly yours,

Bob

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, History, Inspiration, Poetry, Publishing

Two Poems Up at Praxis Magazine

A big thank you to the editors of Praxis Magazine Online for publishing my poems “The Rule” and “Your Sonnet.” Praxis is an African-based magazine for arts and literature. Check it out by reading the other stories and poems!

“The Rule” is obviously a response to the Covid pandemic. Like a lot of writers, I am torn between wanting to write about the pandemic and wanting to get away from it by NOT writing about the pandemic.

“Your Sonnet” is a poem that a lot of (particularly, but not exclusively) women can probably relate to. It makes use of the Little Red Riding Hood story, as do several of my poems in the last couple of years. I know that I have posted before about my Pinterest board for Little Red art, but now the board has over 1,300 images! I really do wonder if any secular folktale has inspired more art than Little Red: Red in the Woods

You can read the poems here:

THE RULE and YOUR SONNET

 

Last week I wrote about penpals and posted a link for Snail Mail Social Club. After applying by checking off my interests from a provided list, I was given two names and addresses to write to. One of them was an individual living at home. The other is a staff contact at a senior facility. The idea, apparently, is that the facilities don’t want to give out names for privacy issues so I am supposed to write as many letters as I like for these unknown people living there.

I have to admit I was disappointed. I wrote back, asking if they were going to match me up with people with my interests, but have not heard back. I can send generic letters to any senior facility–I don’t need this “finding” service to get me a staff member’s name. The reason I liked writing to Matt was because he said he was interested in war stories, so I wanted to hear his and tell him the ones I know about from my family. If someone wants to talk about books or history or art or cats, I’m all here. Or there. Or pen in hand.

Does anybody else have information about finding people to write to that I have something in common with? I think it would be more meaningful to shut-ins since I am not a 3rd grader writing with my class. Does that make any sense or do I sound nonsensical?

Let me know what you think . . . .

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Inspiration, Literary Journals, Poetry, Poetry Collection

Find a Pandemic Pen Pal

The other day a friend of mine posted some photos from a nursing home in Texas. Some of the residents were looking for penpals. Their facility is locked up because of the pandemic, so the people are presumably getting lonely. Each person holds a white board with their first name, listing a few items they like. In a few moments of spontaneity, I wrote to one of the residents. I chose Matt because he simply wrote that he is interested in war stories. He reminded me of my dad a bit, and my dad loved war stories when he was living in the nursing home. Also, I am researching my great-uncle Chuck’s military history because my uncle asked me to do so. He told me that there is a story there, one that I had never heard before. I don’t have all the info yet, but when I do I plan to reveal it on my family history blog. I’ll probably link to it here.

Anyway, I wrote to Matt about my dad being in the Korean War and Uncle Chuck in Germany during WWII. I really hope he writes back, but he might get a lot of mail. I felt happy just writing to him, even if I don’t hear back.

I wondered if other nursing homes are doing the same. I mean, it didn’t take long to write the letter and it cost me a stamp. I found this article by AARP: Pen Pals Share the Joy of Letter Writing. The AARP article led me to this website: Snail Mail Social Club. For this “club,” you end up writing to individuals in “facilities,” as well as to the staff at the facilities. I think this is a chance to thank people who are taking care of our elders. I filled out a very brief form for Snail Mail Social Club. I put down my interests as animals, art/crafts, history, and reading. You have to choose from the choices on the list. I will be sent a list of people to write to by email.

Letter writing is strictly old school, not like what bloggers do. To blog we need the power of the internet and the power that goes into our computer electrical cord (or battery). It felt good to send out a letter. Now I better write one to my aunt!

Kind of ironic that I am posting about letter writing when the USPS is in trouble, but then maybe it is meant to be that I write about this now.

I told my mother about writing to Matt and asked if the nursing home at her campus offers something like this. She asked me to please call and give them the idea. I left a message on the voice mail of the appropriate person, but I have not yet heard back.

If we all, adults and children alike, wrote to just one pen pal, that would give light and color to the lives of so many people who are cooped up from Covid, unable to even see their own relatives in person. Imagine how it feels to be locked in, wondering if you will die before you can go for a car or bus ride or see your relatives again.

This photo is from my father’s U.S. Army photo album from his time in the military. Interesting that he seems to be posing in front of the quartermaster school. He was not a quartermaster, but he was a supply sergeant, so it’s likely that (unless I have this confused) he worked for a quartermaster. He isn’t wearing a uniform in all of his photos. In some of them he is even wearing a bathing suit. I chose this one because I like his jazzy sweater.

I’m going to close comments because it’s been a super busy week, and I need to catch up with comments and the blogs of others. Make it the best week you can (considering haha).

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Inspiration, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

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 ;).

###

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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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Reading, Vintage American culture

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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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction