I mentioned before that my kids gave me a subscription to Storyworth, which sends weekly story prompts to me. At the end of the year, the family will get a book of the stories. Here’s the prompt and my story from week two.
What was your most memorable birthday? My 21st.
I’m in our tiny apartment living room, and in the middle between the couch and the TV is the ironing board and a basket full of wrinkled clothes. The TV is on, but the incessant drizzle and gray sky outside the sliding glass door overpowers the 24” TV screen. The wet pavement of our cracked patio looks nasty with blown damp leaves. Bedraggled, drooping petunias surround the cement square. It’s my 21st birthday, and my husband is at work. Eventually I get dressed in my new jeans and matching vest with leather trim. Half the laundry is still in the basket, but we’re meeting at Valentine’s nightclub in the Kalamazoo Center. I drive toward downtown. The rain has let up, but there is still a slight mist, and the streets are wet. A 21st birthday is supposed to be a big deal, at least that’s what I’ve heard. But this is a disagreeable Tuesday, and I’ve been completely alone all day. As I get close to the outdoor mall, the sun wakes and a brilliant rainbow spreads it wings across the sky. I park my car in the parking garage attached to the Kalamazoo Center, then I head toward the convention building, across the skywalk nestled underneath the rainbow. I look down the long expanse of hallway. The new sun is glinting sideways through the glass. What’s that lying on the ground halfway across? When I get closer, I stop and look down. There’s a $100 bill, partially folded in half, as if it fell from a large wad of money. Or as if it descended from the rainbow.
Note:$100 in 1976 is $469.71 in 2021
I’ve wondered why this birthday was so memorable to me. I’m not a person motivated by money, much to the gardener’s annoyance. A gloomy, gray day with icky ground isn’t my idea of a fun time. Neither is ironing, something I almost never do today. And I’m sure I had a lot of fun at Valentine’s, a club owned by actress Karen Valentine. They made great Brandy Alexanders, and I loved that drink in those days (drinking age was 18). But the memory of that particular evening escapes me. Instead, I have a very detailed, almost extensive, memory of the afternoon ironing and then the drive downtown and finding the money. It seems that the effect of a pleasing surprise arriving almost miraculously after a period of feeling depressed was so powerful that I’ve never forgotten it. In fact, it probably contributed to me becoming a more optimistic person than I had previously been.
This memory is involuntary, as described by writer and critic Sven Birkerts. It’s been 9 years ago that I wrote about working on my memoir (hahahahahaha) and how important involuntary memories are to the pursuit of the meaning of our memories. You can read it here: Breaking the Codes of Childhood
Imagine if I hadn’t found that $100 on my birthday. I might be a different person today.
And guess what? I found a photo of me in that jeans outfit in the same month as my 21st birthday! This is a different night, at a friend’s home.
Rest In Peace to the bestest boy Kitchen Kat Felix “Fefe” Mr Scoobydooby man. My kitchen seems ridiculous without him in charge. I tried to help him through all his health issues, but last night the lymphoma or FIP attacked his neurological system and he began to have many small seizures. The vet said it was time to let him go. Mac and Izzie met him where the colors band together.
Two years ago I posted Felix’s story on this blog. If you didn’t get a chance to read it at that time, here it is again. I won’t be posting tomorrow, but I will be back a week later. XO
I’ve been very busy caring for the kitties, especially Felix who requires a lot of meds and supplements and vet visits. But I did manage to write my reviews for the other two nonfiction picks. Click on the book covers to order from Amazon.
Ellie Presner’s memoir Surviving Hollywood North: Crew Confessions from an Insider was a fun fly-on-the-wall read, especially if you recognize some old film/TV that was filmed in Montreal. That is where Hollywood North existed: in Ellie’s hometown of Montreal. Ellie worked as a script coordinator for a decade during the heyday of Montreal’s film industry. Ellie had to be extremely organized, competent, and a grammar expert for this job. I had to laugh when she would assert her opinion over a word choice or idea with an arrogant screenwriter or bigwig. This high stress, fast-paced job seems to have been something Ellie could handle with aplomb, and the necessary adrenaline shines through in the voice of the book. Ellie’s jobs were all temporary because that is how it works in the field. Each job was created by the timeline of the film or of the season. Ellie tells the story of several different jobs, doling out behind the scenes gossip—mainly what she herself experienced or witnessed. Documents from Ellie’s work sprinkle the book, allowing the reader a first-hand look at the work. She also gives examples from her humorous work memos, designed to relieve stress for the staff. My favorite section of the book is her work for actor Patrick MacGoohan who was writing a screenplay for a movie based on his cult classic TV show, The Prisoner. I felt sad with Ellie at the end when she witnessed the last days of “Hollywood North.” You can find Ellie at her blog Crossed Eyes and Dotted Tees
Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary, by Pamela S. Wight (of roughwighting blog) is a little gem of inspirational very short (flash) stories that explore the divine in everyday life. They remind me a lil bit of the “domestic farce” literature of Jean Kerr, Shirley Jackson, and Erma Bombeck, but more mystical than practical. I suspect because of the piece entitled “How Was Your vacation, Erma?” that Bombeck is a muse for Pam. But Pam’s approach to the material of the day-to-day life of a mom, wife, and grandmother is to look for what lies beyond, rather than in rigorously mining the humorous. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of humor in the book, but I am left more with a sense of awe for the majesty of life. For instance, in “Oxen Mystic,” Pam suffers a nighttime seizure in the bathroom when she’s home alone. Alone, that is, except for her dog Henry. He takes charge of her medical care, licking her and then covering her with his warm body, until she can crawl into bed three hours later. After Henry passes away, Pam still can feel his presence, even hear his “voice” in her ear. The storyteller of Flashes of Life is insightful, gentle, and open to each experience. While the book can be easily read in a couple of sittings and the essays are short, the book occupies a large presence in the heart and mind of the reader long after the last page. You can find Pam at her blog roughwighting.net
A big thank you to Susan Farese for guest hosting last week. I have added her contact links to that post if you would like to follow or contact her.
I’ve written about my Felix and his terminal illness (either lymphoma or dry FIP). He is on medications, supplements, and fluids. He’s eating ok, not great, but only because of the pred he’s on. I guess steroids causes them to eat if they otherwise will not. And he doesn’t seem to be suffering, but enjoying life enough. He is getting skinny though.
Now I have another cat who has entered hospice in my home. That is my 21-year-old best friend Pear Blossom. Pear’s lab values are great for her age. She’s completely fine. EXCEPT. She has a tumor on her front leg. At her age, surgery or amputation is out of the question, so we are trying to keep her comfortable and then will have to let her go when Pear says it’s time. I have been concerned about this leg since January, but couldn’t get a vet “interested” before. I took her to a new vet who was able to xray and then to probe under the scabs where she saw the tumor. I don’t want to “talk” too much about how this wasn’t acted upon earlier. It’s too upsetting on the one hand. On the other, what could they have done back in January? She was still nearly 21 at that time.
Instead, my focus is on taking care of these two, making them as comfy as possible, and then also not neglecting my other four!
In the photo: top left clockwise: Pear Blossom, Perry, Kana, Felix, Sloopy Anne, Tiger
I’ve been participating in the Sealey Challenge since August 1 (reading a poetry book a day). I’m focusing on short books and chapbooks because it is a lot of reading on top of everything else. In fact, I’m debating if I should continue because I got my memoir manuscript back from a consultation and really need to work on it. Guess what?! This new structure works, according to the reader!!!! First time in ten years the structure has worked LOL. Reminder: this new structure has short pieces like this: MacQueen’s Quinterly 3 linked stories
The book structure has gone a bit full circle, but every time it moved around the circumference it gained something positive even in the midst of setbacks.
Even if I don’t continue with the Sealey Challenge it’s been a really positive experience to savor a variety of poetry styles in such quick succession.
I haven’t forgotten the rest of my nonfiction reviews. Hope to have them up next week! OK, gotta go hug my kitties.
Although I won’t be reviewing most of the poetry books I read in August for #thesealeychallenge, I have a review to share of a book that I read at the end of July. I know the poet from our experience as the mothers of children through international adoption, as well as being the mothers of musical theatre daughters.
Poetic Expressions in Nursing: Sharing the Caring, by Susan J. Farese MSN, RN, is from the perspective of a nurse who writes poetry to express her feelings and as a stress-reliever.
After her careers in military and civilian nursing, Susan is self-employed in the communications field. Susan has taught seminars encouraging nurses to use poetry as another form of communication. I relish this stanza for how it exemplifies the encouragement:
Brave and famous poets we need not be
but writing from the heart, that sets us free
Through poems we tell our stories
Share pain, grief, caring, glories
Regardless of our nursing specialty.
Susan’s poetry collection tells the family history stories of where her desire to be a nurse originated. In particular, the decline and death from Alzheimer’s of Grandma Ann, described in “Ann’s Zest Ends,” was very poignant. Another poem tells the tragic story of Grandpa Joe who died of an asthma attack in his own kitchen. These family reminiscences really spoke to me.
In many of her poems, Susan gives nurses a voice. Very often nurses are relegated to background status (to the doctors and the system), so Susan allows the reader to appreciate nurses and what they do for us. She also gives a voice to some patients who died too young. One of the themes that runs through some of the poems is that of intuition. She wants nurses to use their intuition and to value the intuition of patients or the family of patients.
The book has a bonus section of haikus paired with Susan’s beautiful photography. Susan has made haiku her own poetic specialty, but most of the book is in various forms of free verse. Susan creates forms that work best for each individual poem.
This collection, with its very accessible poems, would make a lovely gift for nurse or patient in your life.
Because I started #thesealeychallenge yesterday and am still going to vet visits and sorting things out for my sick kitties, Susan Farese will be acting as host for this blog post. Here’s your chance to ask her any questions about her book or the “marriage” of nursing and writing.
Are you ready for the challenge of your life? How about reading a poetry book a day for this entire month (August)? Before you get too overwhelmed, let me explain. Chapbooks count. If you read a Collected Works book, you can count it as as many books as are collected within. You can read the old guys, the classics of the 20th century, or contemporary poetry–or any combination. You can reread books that you really want to read again. Then, if you want to, share somewhere: image, title, whatever you want to share. On your blog, your social media, or keep a log for yourself.
This is the first year I am participating in #thesealeychallenge. Here is a little info about it and an interview of founder Nicole Sealey: The Rumpus on #thesealeychallenge
The way I chose my books was to grab a lot of poetry books from my shelf that I have not yet read! But I could do it through the library on my Kindle, if I chose.
Are you up to joining me? I’d love to follow your progress!!! And come follow mine: Luanne’s #thesealeychallenge on Instagram at CATPOEMS and Twitter at WRITERSITETWEET.