Category Archives: California

A Quick Visit to The Land of Beaches and Traffic

I’ve been beachside for my future DIL’s bridal shower.

Lovely air for my sinuses and skin.  

The hills were alive with the color of wildflowers everywhere that housing developments haven’t taken over!

We had a great family time. Now it’s good to be home with our cats and away from the hubbub.

Pear Blossom wondering why Tiger Queenie keeps coming so close. After all, Pear is the undisputed actual Queen of the house at age 17.

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Filed under California, Cats and Other Animals, Lifestyle, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

Lazybones Blog Post

After a difficult week, I offer some of the more positive views I experienced (outside of my post-election distress, complicated migraine, screwed-up-and-painful leg, and ridiculously hectic travel). Today my father has been gone exactly 18 months.

My peace pole (built and erected by my father) as seen through the palms as a sort of liminal space. Here it is in Korean and English. The other sides are Spanish and Hebrew. Dad chose the languages.

We were in California again this past week. The Virginia Dare winery crusher building in Rancho Cucamonga. The Virginia Dare wine company is close to 200 years old and is now owned by the Coppola family.

The gate of the medical office complex that is part of the Virginia Dare center now. The metal grape leaves are a nice touch. Sorry it is so crooked. I thought I had that problem solved, but apparently not.

A mug with my life’s motto (the mug itself belongs to someone else, but the wine is mine): I just want to drink wine & pet my cat. Or cats. Which I can’t do when I am in California.

The view of Phoenix when I drove back in from California.

And when I got to the house I discovered that Pear and Tiger had decided to share the window seat.

Memoir Writing: Structure

I am doing some writing–just enough to feel as if I am writing. Rewriting my memoir into chronological order is really not difficult. The material is almost completely written–and it seems to more effortlessly fall into place this way. I remember now when I first started putting the  story in a different order. I was in a workshop where the students insisted that because the main secret that is revealed in my book is not HUGE, as in not huge for the public and only huge for me and for my family, that I had to reveal just enough of it up front so that nobody would get the wrong idea. I think this started me on the wrong path that has gone on now for years. I hope my new revelation that they were wrong is correct, otherwise I don’t know how to tell the story. So I am following some hopefully wise advice from Lewis Carroll:

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, California, Cats and Other Animals, Food & Drink, Liminality, Nonfiction, Photographs, Writing, Writing Talk

Enter to Win a FREE COPY of DOLL GOD and The Little Free Library with Dogs

What to win a free copy of Doll God?

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway. If you’re not on Goodreads, it is easy to sign up–and it costs nothing to enter to WIN A FREE COPY OF DOLL GOD.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Doll God by Luanne Castle

Doll God

by Luanne Castle

Released January 10 2015

Enter Giveaway

Remember the little free library?

One of the books I bought at the used bookstore was The Girl on the Train. It was a fairly suspenseful thriller, but it had some pretty big flaws. For one, a lot of the book is taken up by holding the main character’s hand while she drinks. Yeah, she’s a very tedious alcoholic. Boring. Then I figured out the solution to the mystery by the middle of the book, so the ending was a big letdown. None of the characters were likable.

Strangely, the book felt like it was written by Paul (not Paula) Hawkins. This is not meant as a negative about books by men or anything like that. And I’ve never really thought to myself about whether a book was written by a man or woman–I never cared. But I was haunted by the feeling that a woman couldn’t have written this book. It was kind of odd.

All that said, I read the book in one day, so it was a suspenseful read.

I went to California and thought I’d visit the little free library. Since I had just finished reading The Girl on the Train and didn’t have anybody I wanted to subject give it to, I thought I’d walk there and do a switch. When I arrived at the house with the little library, I noticed that the front door was open and a little wire-haired cutie (dog) was walking down the front yard. I kept approaching the library, wondering if the dog was supposed to be outside as he/she wasn’t wearing a collar. Just then a yellow lab came running out of that open door. The lab was not happy with me and ran toward me, growling in an aggressive manner. I walked across the street and turned back in the direction I came from. That was disappointing, considering I like being able to walk to a little library. And I couldn’t help but think of the children’s books in the library and what could have happened if a child had been walking there at that moment.

Later, the gardener drove me over there and I did the swap. I ended up with a book called Earnest about . . . (get this) a yellow lab.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book promotion, Book Review, Books, California, Doll God, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

Another Opportunity for a New (to me) Book

I was in California this past week, and I discovered a “little free library” in front of someone’s house when I was mailing some letters.

I’d never had the opportunity before, so I grabbed a book I was willing to give up and visited.

I donated an unread Anne Rice novel. I figured that I had had it and never read it, so it might as well be read by someone who would appreciate it. While I am fascinated by a lot of topics, vampires have never appealed to me. Maybe I’m afraid of them, not sure.

There were quite a few children’s books in this little library, but even with only a handful of adult books, I could see several that appealed to me. I picked the memoir about anxiety (I can sure use that and then I can pass it on to one of at least ten other people I know who could use reading it) by Daniel Smith, Monkey Mind.

These little libraries are such a positive affirmation of reading, sharing, education, and community spirit. The only drawback I can see is that adult books can fall into the hands of children–and, of course, there are inappropriate scenes in many of them.

I wonder what other people think about that concern . . . .

I finished the first book in the Dolls to Die For series. It was great fun, in part because Deb Baker pays such attention to setting, and that setting is Phoenix. In fact, Phoenix almost becomes a character in the story. The reader is given a lot of description of the climate and topography of Phoenix. Here she describes the aftermath of a monsoon storm: “Last night’s storm had moved toward the coast, and the arid desert heat had already begun to absorb the large quantities of fallen rain. In the next short, sunny hours, all evidence of flooding would evaporate, and the land would appear parched again.”

Because the book was first in the series (Dolled Up for Murder), I had a good time guessing which characters might become regulars in the series. The protagonist, Gretchen Birch, is young at barely thirty, but her aunt played a large role in the story, too. Nina, the aunt, is a purse dog trainer, meaning she trains tiny dogs to stay inside handbags so they can be sneaked (aka snuck) into restaurants and stores.

Another treat I finished was the entire six seasons of Downton Abbey. More, more! I became addicted, and now the whole world seems gray without it. Soon after I wrote my last post about Downton, I realized that Isobel Crawley was my absolute favorite character. I love them all, but she is the one I will miss the most.

But I am reading Monkey Mind already!

I hope your week is full of just the number of books that you have time to read. If you love books, you will know what I mean.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Book Review, Books, California, Fiction, Memoir, Reading, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

That Same Old Drive Again

Last week we drove to California for work again. I tried to keep my camera phone on in case I could snap a shot of anything else of interest besides those beheaded palm trees I posted last time. The quality is poor because of shooting as we drove by, though the glass window and its reflection, and every other excuse you can imagine.

Freeway travel is fast and so often hubby drives in the left lane, which makes it even more difficult.

These buildings are out in the middle of nowhere.

And then we go through a rural area with cow and sheep ranches. Only they aren’t ranches as you think of them. They are FACTORIES to produce milk and meat. The stench is so bad that I have to cover my face with a towel in these areas. Remember those old commercials about happy cows in California? NOT. And as for Land O’Lakes and their sweet little signs on these enterprises, they can kiss my back forty. Today I bought some Irish butter from grass-fed cows. When I go to IRELAND this summer, I’ll check out the situation of the cows there.

(Yes, I am planning to go to Ireland. It’s not set up yet, but hopefully all will go well!)

Most of the landscape is monotonous desert stubbled with cacti or weeds, but occasionally we drive through master-planned chaos and more beheaded trees.

Last time I wrote about our drive, I wasn’t writing. I’ve been tinkering with my memoir manuscript and putting together the bones of my “genealogy” chapbook. It’s not a lot of writing, but it is writing.  So YAY!!! How about you??

Leaving you with a pic of my favorite shelter cat, Slupe. I couldn’t wait to get back and see her. She’s a prickly little calico/tortie (nobody can decide for sure, but I think she’s a calico), but we have a special relationship. She’s been at the shelter for two years and needs rescuing!!!

Slupe in cave

 

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, California, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Photographs, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

That Same Old Drive

We go back and forth between Arizona and California often enough that I am sick of the ride. There are only two ways to travel. One is via Interstate 8 through the mountains west of San Diego. We pass so close to Mexico that my cell service switches over for awhile.  The other is our regular route, via Interstate 10. We rarely take the first route because I hate losing cell service while we drive through the mountains–just in case something goes wrong–because we are generally on a deadline. It’s also a little longer.

I10 takes us through the flat desert. I always thought this was the Mohave, but actually the southern boundary of the Mohave is just north of the 10. We drive through the northern section of the Colorado Desert. Go figure. Maybe that is why we drive over the Colorado River near Blythe. Or maybe the desert is named after the river.

Since we only make one stop each drive and it’s to get gas and have a potty break (5 minutes in and out), we never stop near the river, so I haven’t been able to take a pic of it.

But there are things I can snap as the car moves (since I’m not the one driving).

Look at that. Beheaded palm trees. This is the sort of view that gives me the creeps. I keep wondering what happened to their branches. You could say, “Where’s the green?” (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!)

There are the picturesque (to me) ruins of old gas stations and motels, generally covered with graffiti, but darned if I’ve been able to capture those either.

We go to California for work and to see our son and his fiancée.

After seeing them, I am always ready to head back home to this: Pear, Tiger, Kana, Felix.

I’m still working my way through the work that got behind this winter. Then I plan to get back to writing. Sigh.

Do you find it difficult to write when your head is too full of stuff to do?

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

Never Gonna Dance Again

On Monday I had a recheck on my foot reconstruction that was done 10.5 years ago. My surgeon is now retired, so I saw a new doctor. He’s quite young, but I think he is still in contact with my original surgeon because he said he would mention me to him. They are scheduling an MRI in case the X-ray wasn’t doing its job, but I suspect my only problem is arthritis from the surgery, not a reoccurrence of the very rare tumor.

I remembered a blog post I wrote a long time ago that explained the discovery of the tumor, as well as a poem I published about the experience and my disappointment with my original foot doctor. Instead of reblogging, I thought I would repost the story itself, as well as a  link to a poem I wrote about dealing with this bone tumor. The poem is called “Seasons.”  Call the story “Good Thing.”

I collapse into the nearest empty wheelchair parked just inside glass doors to the ER waiting room of St. Mary’s Hospital.  “Wait, Marshal.”  I call to my husband who marches, with his head bent forward, to the triage desk.  He turns, sees me in the chair, and motions me to follow.

He speaks to the nurse, and his upper body moves with the force of his words.  I don’t have time to observe the waiting room, when the nurse pushes me into a cubicle in back.  Within minutes I am in a gown, on the Stryker bed which is no bed, but a parking place for a sick body.  The gown smells of a commercial laundry.  I unbuckle my medical walking boot, dropping it to the floor, where it looks like a robot’s foot.

Marshal goes outside for a cigarette, and I am cold, shielding my eyes from the fluorescents positioned directly above.  I get migraines from fluorescents, but not headaches.  Mine originally were confused with transient ischemic attacks, or mini strokes, because they pucker one side of my face like a rotting fruit and give me vertigo, vomiting, and an inability to rise up from a prone position.  I put the pillow over my face and wait.

“Excuse me.”  A handsome young man has pushed another bed to the opening of my cubicle.  He helps me onto that bed, tells me to lie down, and pushes me still farther back into the ER, shielding my face from the lights with a towel.  “It won’t take long to x-ray your foot.  We should have some answers soon,” he says.  His voice is gentle.  His features vaguely resemble my son’s.  I wonder if he’s Korean; my son is of Korean heritage.

“Where’s my husband?”

My bed driver says, “He’ll be back soon.”

The lights are off in the x-ray room, so my eyes relax.  My driver stays in the room.

“My foot has already been x-rayed by two different doctors,” I say.

The x-ray technician is tall, blond, and he’s focused on his machine.  “We need to x-ray it ourselves.  Did you bring those films with you?”

I want to tell him that I’ve been traveling for weeks, barely able to walk with the shoe on, with a symphony of pain in my foot.  We arrived only last night in Rochester for my husband to get to the bottom of his mysterious medical ailments at the famed Mayo Clinic.  Now, before he has had a chance to be seen, my tears have sent him driving me to the ER before his own appointments at the clinic.

No, I did not bring my films from California, Mr. X-ray.

Both young men introduce themselves to me, but I can’t take in their names.   They are studying to be doctors.   Or maybe they are already doctors, studying ER patients.  They look at me to answer their question.

I want to tell them it’s the end of July, and it was early April when the spider climbed the wall behind the couch and I jumped up and came down to a fireburst of pain in my right foot.  I want to say that in these months, I have been examined by two physician’s assistants, four doctors-in-training, and have received advice from two specialists.  Both said to exercise my foot and tough it out.

No, I did not bring my films from California, Dr. X-ray.

My driver is to hold my foot while the blond works the machine.  The rubber gloves he is to wear to protect his hands from the radiation are huge, clumsy, and my foot can’t get placed correctly.  In frustration, he pulls them off his long slim fingers and with those fingers, he pulls my foot apart, spreading the bones out like the ribs of a silk fan.  This is the third set of x-rays and the first time anyone has concentrated on trying to do the best job possible.  Gratitude wells from me like tears brimming over.   I worry about him becoming a doctor, worry that if he continues putting himself in danger for his patients that there will not be enough of him to sustain a full career and a long life.

When we reach my cubicle, my husband stands at the doorway, hands in his pockets, surveying the workings of the ER.  He looks at my face quickly, steps aside to allow the possibly-Korean young doctor to position the bed-on-wheels next to my Stryker.  I scoot over onto the bed.

“Thank you,” I say.  “Have a good life.”  He smiles and pulls the bed back out of my cubicle.

Marshal stands at the doorway and watches the ER from there.  I lie under the fluorescents.  The ceiling is low and the light so concentrated they can do surgery right there on my Stryker, if they need to.  I shield my face with my hand until my hand gets tired, and then I switch hands.  Marshal sees me squinting and finds a light switch, turning off one panel of lights over me.  I hope he, too, has a long life and gets some help tomorrow from the Mayo doctors for his ailments.  He says if you rub your arm for twenty minutes and then stop, that’s what his esophagus feels like all the time.  Nobody has solved this mystery yet, but Mayo has the best doctors in the world.

Nurses and orderlies walk back and forth in front of my doorway.  I can see them beyond Marshal.

Marshal says, “What’s taking them so long?”

I lie down and pull the pillow back over my face.  Exhaustion settles like a blanket over my limbs, even my mind.  A clatter on the floor startles me, and I realize I have started to doze.  My body settles down again, shrugging into itself from the chill of the room.  The thin blanket I have pulled over myself only keeps me from chattering off the metal bed.

“It’s been at least forty-five minutes since they took those x-rays,” Marshal says, but I tune him out.

A hum starts in the large open room of the ER.  It grows in sound, a barely perceptible vibration.  I see Marshal alert, watching the quickened pace of the medical personnel.

“They must have brought in a bad one,” he says.

I sit up and look out past him.  The room feels as if a bee colony has awoken and begun droning.  I get off the bed and hop to the doorway, lean on Marshal’s shoulder.  Two doctors are walking from the hospital side into the large room.  At the same time two others who must be doctors stride from the other direction.  I can tell they are doctors because they know they are doctors.  It shows.  A fifth doctor materializes and they meet at the nurse’s station, talking at once, interrupting each other.

Marshal turns to look at me.  “Get back on the bed,” he says and helps me up onto the Stryker.  “I don’t know what you have, but you have something.”  He’s so dramatic.  I wonder what he’s talking about.  He sounds silly sometimes.  I wonder if he has the beginnings of early dementia.  He’s such a pessimist.

I’ll tease him, as usual, when those doctors converge on the stretcher coming off the helicopter or out of the ambulance or wherever the new patient is coming from.

Then the doctors are crowding into my cubicle, vying for my attention.  They all want to share the news with me, but finally the others defer to one who speaks to me.  They are busy, taking time away from their duties, and there is no time for finesse.  “You have a tumor in your foot.”

800px-Foot_bones_-_tarsus,_metatarsusI stretch my foot out in front to stare at it, the ridiculous stranger.  “No, no!” one of the doctors says and another catches my foot in his hands and slowly pushes it onto the bed, keeps his hands on it as if it’s a new hatchling or huge opal fresh from the mine.  The speaker keeps talking.  “You must be extremely careful of your foot right now.  The least misstep and the bone will shatter.  It will be irreparable, and you will not be able to walk.  Let me explain.”

Marshal is leaning against my bed, his hands behind his back, defenseless.

“A tumor has taken over your navicular bone, which is the central bone from which the other bones operate.  There is very little left of the navicular.  The only way it can be fixed is to graft bone tissue into the bone.  If the shell of the bone shatters, there is no way to recreate a new bone.”

Eventually they file out, and Marshal and I don’t look at each other.  He hands me my clothes.  A nurse bustles in with a long list of appointments for the next day and an address for the wheelchair store.  When I’m dressed, Marshal hands me the walking boot and opens the hospital’s wheelchair, plunking down the footrests with his foot.

“Good thing we came here,” one of us says.  “Good thing.”

UCLA Santa Monica Hospital–newly remodelled

One of only two doctors who could do this surgery was located at UCLA Santa Monica, only two hours from home, so that is where I went. When I was there, the marble was an ugly dark green, and Britney Spears was having her second child.

 

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Filed under California, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

Places to Go and People to See

My mother is visiting for two months. So that she doesn’t have to sit around while I work all the time, I decided to take her to southern California and visit her grandson and his fiancée. And to stop off at a few wineries . . . .

Did I ever mention that I discovered my father’s grandmother’s family owned vineyards in Germany? It was in a village called Budesheim, right outside of Bingen. I explained to Mom that proves that I come from a long line of winos.

We not only checked out Chardonnays, but other wines as well.

We were picky about which wineries and even walked out of one before we bought our tickets. Calloway above was a favorite.

Mom was entranced with the snow on the mountaintops so early in the season.

I was entranced with the egrets sneaking around every vineyard.

On an unrelated note, if you’ve read Doll God and haven’t yet written a review for Amazon, I am shamelessly begging for another review to boost the book up to 30 reviews. It’s been at 29 for a loooooooong time. xo

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, California, Food & Drink, Lifestyle, Sightseeing & Travel

Reading from The Book

On Sunday, I gave a poetry reading in Redlands, California, at the State Street Deli and Cafe. It was organized by Carla McGill, who did a fabulous job of it. Before I read, Carla read some of her own poetry, as did two other poets. After the event, I was able to sell and sign some copies of Doll God. Although I get nervous speaking in public, I really do love reading my poetry aloud. Actually, I love reading poetry aloud, period.

You know what I notice in this photo? How messed up my scarf got. What a shallow mind.

Here are a couple of clips of the reading. In the first I read “American Girl,” “Effigy,” and “Calculating Loss”–all poems from the book.

and in this clip I read a new poem about my great-grandmother.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, California, Doll God, Dolls, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Writing

What Counts as Writing

I went to California for a few days with hubby for work. Not writing work. Survival work.

Life needs to settle down a little, but my schedule seems full for months ahead now. I wish I had more time for writing. I get frustrated about how little time I actually can spare.

On the ride I snapped a few pix of the scenery. I’m always amazed at how entire mountainsides or significant portions can appear dark according to the lighting. They have a damp look although they are actually where the sun is partially blocked. Sometimes they are shadows. They make me feel moody.

While our mountains are kind of small and unadorned–and not beautiful like the Rockies or the Blue Ridge–they are the most interesting landscape around.

When I glanced at my photos I realized that even this mundane view is fuel for my writing and that if I remain aware and observant I am always writing. When a poem seems to write itself it’s because I’ve done my homework by absorbing what’s around me and meditating on it.

For now, I’m curious: how would you describe the mood of this photo?

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, California, Inspiration, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing, Writing goals, Writing prompt