Category Archives: Cats and Other Animals

Cinthia Ritchie’s Malnourished is a Tour de Force

Cinthia Ritchie, BRAG your book!  Start posting reviews or parts of reviews of your new memoir Malnourished on your blog cinthiaritchie.com because after I wrote mine I went on Amazon and saw some great reviews over there.

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Take a look at Cinthia’s book by clicking the image. It will take you to where you can purchase the book on Amazon AND where you can read reviews. This book is fabulous. It’s the kind of book that, if you’re a writer, makes you jealous because she gets it so right, word by word, white space by white space, chapter by chapter. Malnourished is a TOUR DE FORCE. No kidding.

I wrote a review that I will post on Amazon and Goodreads. It doesn’t do the book justice AT ALL. if you want to read a better review, read Carla McGill’s over on Amazon.

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Cinthia Ritchie’s memoir Malnourished is a strange and beautiful trek into the heart of a family. Ritchie has three sisters, and all four girls/women have been tragically affected by their upbringing in a home with a predatory stepfather, a mother who will not see the truth, and a deceased father.

While Ritchie’s sister’s death from anorexia is the catalyst for the book, the subject is Ritchie’s survival story. She shares how she and her sister Deena grew up together, how their relationship expanded and contracted over time, how she and Deena diverged in their responses to life, and where they were similar. While Ritchie claims never to have been an anorexic, she has a complicated relationship with food. Ritchie has exhibited starvation and other dangerous symptoms of emotional distress and control over her body. In this memoir, Ritchie manages to open up a space where we can think, discuss, soul-search human relationships with food as emotionally-charged metaphor and how that power plays out on our bodies.

Reading this story gave me insight into how personalities and desires are shaped by experience. For example, Ritchie is a serious runner who craves being outdoors. By reading Malnourished, I was able to feel what it would be like to need to run, to sleep outside under the stars. A small bedroom offers no place for a child to run from a menace that lurks inside the house, one which makes the walls complicit with the stepfather.

What I’ve written here might sound like Ritchie explains all this in the book. While she does reflect on her experiences, her gorgeous, lyrical writing does not “tell” the reader, so much as allow the reader into her world to figure things out for herself. Most importantly, Ritchie’s generosity in baring herself for scrutiny and understanding is such a gift to every reader.

Malnourished is not a comfortable read. It’s a work of art that nudges readers from our comfortable seats, from the comforting ways our minds purposefully arrange our interior landscapes. The beauty of the way Ritchie arranges her words will keep you going even through the darkest passages.

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Felix still has an upper respiratory infection. The vet says that it can last three weeks. Because he has to stay in the bedroom all this time (isolation), I have a lot of anxiety about him being lonely. Poor baby. Please send him healing vibes so he gets well soon and can be let out of the bedroom!

I started experimenting with writing weird poems about everyday subjects and objects, inspired by reading Matthew Lippman’s new poetry collection Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful. I’m not even done reading it yet!

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My Poor Baby Fefe

My boy Fefe has been sick for days. I am taking him to the vet this morning for the diagnosis.

This was Felix a day before he got sick.

By the next day he was sneezing. You see, Perry had sneezed for a full week before that, but he wasn’t really sick, and his sneeze had already disappeared.

So when Felix began sneezing I wasn’t too worried. I went away on Friday for most of the day, and by the time I got home late afternoon, he was holding his mouth open and looking very odd.

My vet, who is a wonderful person who does a lot of work for the shelter animals, said to bring him right over. Although they were fully booked, the vet examined him in back. At that time he wasn’t sure if he was dealing with an infection of the mouth and/or an upper respiratory infection–and the treatments are different. So they gave me an appointment for Monday morning, hoping the symptoms would shake out by then.

They shook out late that night when I became convinced Felix had a pretty bad URI.

I isolated Felix because I am terrified of Pear (who is now 20) getting sick. The gardener set up a humidifier for him because Google says a humidifier helps cats with URIs. I also have had to hand feed him food–and not his hated prescription urinary diet, but Weruva salmon (nice and stinky), Temptations treats, and Inaba Churu scallop-flavored creamy treats.

Please send prayers, hugs, vibes, and virtual pets to my dear boy! (Yes, he’s the one that had the urinary blockage last August!)

On a writing note: I have been revising as I can this week. It’s been hard to fit in in, so I try to grab at least 30 minutes to revise. Better than nothing.

Hope we all have a healthy, peaceful week!

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A Little Bit Like Grandpa

On one of my family history blogs, The Family Kalamazoo, I was chatting with family history blogger and blog friend Amy Cohen (check out her amazing work at Brotmanblog: A Family Journey) and I was trying to give her an idea of my grandfather’s personality. I directed her to the first poem in my chapbook Kin Types, “Advice from My Forebears.” I reminded her about two lines in it: “If they come to your door, feed them. Then send / them on their way.” This particular advice sounds exactly like my grandfather’s philosophy.

Amy said, “There’s something both soft and tough in it, probably like your Grandpa.” Amy was right. That was Grandpa.

What does it mean to be both soft and tough? In some ways I am both those things. I am uber-soft about animals, as you know, and a well-directed commercial about almost anything can leave me in tears. I am the same way about children’s issues that I am about animals–especially foster children and adoptees.

But I do have a little bit of a pull yourself up by your bootstraps iron somewhere inside, too. I lose my patience with people who I view as too soft on themselves. I don’t mean people with problems like mental illness, addictions, anything like that. I mean people who give in to their emotions excessively (IMO), but always when it is about themselves.

I didn’t intend this to turn into a vent, but I guess when you follow a thread into yourself, you find out what you don’t like, as well as what you do like.

I don’t necessarily like this aspect of myself. But I’m not sure that I don’t value it in some respect, also, because it means that I keep myself going, no matter what, I never give up trying to be a helper where truly needed, and I’m a hard worker like Grandpa.

That said, it isn’t up to me to decide when someone is being excessively about themselves. I can extricate myself from the relationship completely, or at least distance myself. But I need to stop judging or labeling and just do what I need to do. In other words, I need to send myself on my way ;).

I have a few writing goals this year. I hope I can accomplish even a quarter of what I plan haha. My submission acceptance goal remains the same as for 2019, and I already have three, so I have hopes that I will meet it once again. This year also will be a year of helping a bit with the wedding planning (for daughter and her fiance).

 

Perry and Sloopy Anne have been lying together on the bed for hours every day. So I can’t make the bed. Not a bad reason not to make a bed, huh? Sorry the lighting is so poor in there, but aren’t they cute?

Let’s make this week one that really counts!!! XO

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Bravery on the Streets: RIP Dexter

This is Dexter, but it is just one of many names he has been called. He lived his life on the streets of Phoenix for many years. He evaded every trap that kind people set for him—and who knows how many that bad people set. He was covered with scars and his ears were all screwed up, but he was still gorgeous when you looked into his soulful eyes. When he knew the end was near he sought out my friend who had given him food and soft words, asking to end his days with her. She gave him a home for the past couple of weeks while he peacefully faded away in a quiet place. She was with him, petting and consoling him, when he passed away on Saturday. Dexter was a strong cat, a brave cat. He lived life on his own terms and died that same way. RIP to a cat I will never forget.

 

Dexter was very sick in these photos. I couldn’t let him pass away without sharing his story because courage isn’t an attribute special to humans (when you can find it) or to dogs. Cats and other animals also can be very brave and strong, facing up to the unfairnesses thrown at them in life. I wanted us to appreciate the strength this boy had to live his life the way he lived it. And the courage he found not just to battle for that life every day on the streets, but the courage to come to my friend when he finally felt he needed her. Bless her for noticing that he needed help beyond the usual.

Dexter lived in my friend’s neighborhood and was at least 12 years old, possibly as old as 15. He was a stray, not truly feral (I’ve written before that a lot of cats are classified as feral who truly are strays–and Dexter would have been seen as feral by some, but he really was not). He trusted my friend and some others enough to get close so they could feed him and even pet him. He lived in an area where coyotes hunt cats. My friend says he “owned” her neighborhood and now he is buried there.

Dexter is not confined to the cage you see. The door was open so he could move into the room. In case you wonder, my friend is very experienced and knows quite a lot about medical and behavioral issues with cats. She decided that he would be completely freaked out by euthanasia by a vet, although she held it in her mind as an option if he didn’t pass peacefully.

So please grieve for Dexter, but also celebrate his bravery and his strength and when you have a chance to help someone, please take the opportunity. If you don’t know about the good work of Alley Cat Allies please check them out.

I can’t leave you without showing you some happy cat rescues that I have recorded with my new iPhone.

Kana, my Home Fur Good rescue princess, is in the stage light mono portrait mode.

Felix is, um, I can’t remember which portrait mode. Felix was rescued from the streets.


Perry is in stage light portrait mode. As you know, he was also rescued from the streets a la our backyard.

MAKE YOUR WEEK COUNT!!!!

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Cute Faces for Healing

After that exhausting (or exciting, as Kate put it) end to the year, I got sick and have been sick for a week now. So I am posting a couple of cute pix to make your day. I know just looking at them makes me feel better.

This is my grandcat Isabella Rose, or Izzie, I have been babysitting for a week. My daughter’s photo is in the background. She cuddles her first kitty, Macavity. He was our first family cat, one she BEGGED for :). He passed away in 2015. Longtime readers might remember when he was sick and passed away a month after my father died.

I am not watching the new puppy, Riley. The care of a puppy on top of seven cats (mine plus Izzie) would be too much for me, so she is with a pet sitter who is studying to be a dog trainer. Maybe she’ll be potty trained when my daughter and her fiance get home!

 

Just to prove that I actually brought my pillows to the couch and tried to rest, I am posting a photo of Perry comforting me. Every time I coughed he got a little rattled. If you look carefully just beyond me you can see Pear Blossom curled up next to me. See her whiskers?

May your holidays be all that you could hope for. Much love to all!

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Cute Enough?

Here is a photo of the cutest puppy you have ever seen.

Why, yes, she is my new granddogter!!! This one belongs to daughter and her boyfriend. That makes six furry grandchildren (and no furless ones). Three dogs and three cats.  This one is a little  too young for me to watch. She cries all night long, and I am bloody exhausted. (I admit to coopting swear words from another culture–what of it?!) Mom has gone home (we did have fun), but it’s such a busy time of the year and work just goes on and on ET CETERA.

You can tell how tired I am from the upper case.

This sweetie’s name is Riley, named after Lincoln Riley, the amazing and young (born in ’83) Oklahoma head football coach.  BOOMER SOONER.

Hope you have a good week. Mine is going to be very jam-packed. I hope yours is just the right amount of excitement and activity.

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The Cat’s Way of Time

I’m still trying to stay on top of everything, but last week kicked me in the behind. If only I could clone myself. I used to like that movie Multiplicity where the man is cloned several times. Remember that? It wasn’t a great movie or a popular one, but Michael Keaton is one of my favorite actors. I am always hoping to clone myself, but that unlike the Keaton character in the movie, I can control the clones–perhaps even operate their brains ;).

Not only did I have a jam-packed week, but a lot of little stuff went wrong. My anxiety level increased as the stress did. I’m wondering if this anxiety is a byproduct of The Artist’s Way program. So far I’ve gotten some advice from a TAW Facebook group. We’ll see how it goes.

But I am happy to report that I snagged a 2020 publication this week.

Still, if only I could learn from my cats that time pools up between our paws when we let it do so. If we’re chasing after it, we’ll never catch it.

How’s about this Marge Piercy cat poem?

THE CAT’S SONG

Mine, says the cat, putting out his paw of darkness.
My lover, my friend, my slave, my toy, says
the cat making on your chest his gesture of drawing
milk from his mother’s forgotten breasts.
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Let us walk in the woods, says the cat.
I’ll teach you to read the tabloid of scents,
to fade into shadow, wait like a trap, to hunt.
Now I lay this plump warm mouse on your mat.
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You feed me, I try to feed you, we are friends,
says the cat, although I am more equal than you.
Can you leap twenty times the height of your body?
Can you run up and down trees? Jump between roofs?
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Let us rub our bodies together and talk of touch.
My emotions are pure as salt crystals and as hard.
My lusts glow like my eyes. I sing to you in the mornings
walking round and round your bed and into your face.
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Come I will teach you to dance as naturally
as falling asleep and waking and stretching long, long.
I speak greed with my paws and fear with my whiskers.
Envy lashes my tail. Love speaks me entire, a word
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of fur. I will teach you to be still as an egg
and to slip like the ghost of wind through the grass.
What a beauty of a poem.

Let’s all remember to honor VETERANS DAY today!

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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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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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Fall into Autumn

Moving from September into October is a delightful fall into autumn in Phoenix. September is still hot. It’s a nasty remnant of summer hanging on past its prime. But October is one of the best months here. Still balmy, but not hot. Sunny days, but sometimes the sky is a little overcast. The snakes are getting ready to hibernate, and the rabbits and quail are old enough to watch out for predators.

The gardener thought it was a good time to put in a couple of new cacti. Within a day of planting one of the cacti developed black spots on it. He ended up agreeing to cut off the limbs with the spots, and they gave him some smaller plants to make up for it. I don’t think that was a great solution. I would have preferred a new plant because I worry about contagion and because now we have a maimed cactus. But he can’t let any plant go to waste. He treats them like the living beings they are.

Then his years-old barrel cactus (it’s not a regular barrel cactus, but some sort of barrel) fell over (it’s fall! it’s fall! sorry). He’s grown that baby into what he says is a $500 plant. But now look at it. So sad. He propped it up, and the man at the landscape store told him it might live. Looks pathetic to me.

What happened, I guess, is that the gardener planted it in the right spot years ago, but a new company came in and worked on the irrigation. They “fixed” it to the point where too much water was hitting that cactus. Because it was near the wash, we aren’t around it when the water came on, so we didn’t know that was happening.

But now that it’s getting cooler (70s and 80s), it’s much easier to work outside, so the gardener is happy about that.

Speaking of fall: pumpkin ice cream bars! I kid you not. I got them at Whole Foods. Vanilla wafers and pumpkin ice cream. That reminds me that I need to look for the pumpkin butter I got last year. That stuff was so good on the gluten-free bakery’s yummy bagels. Don’t try to make me feel bad about pumpkin. I was eating cold pumpkin pie and Cool Whip for breakfast long before you ever thought of it! (News flash: the bars are making me sick which shows me how bad my lactose intolerance is getting).

Felix seems to be ok, but I am taking no chances. I watch for his business on the potty cam every day. Tiger is getting sub q fluids to help her system deal with kidney disease. That makes me feel bad for Pear who is 4 years older and has had kidney disease at least as long as that, but gets no fluids. However, at 19, I think Pear would prefer to just lie in comfort on “her” couch, rather than be hauled off to the vet’s office twice a week. Sloopy Anne does not seem to be throwing up now that I put her on hypoallergenic food (we’ll see if that continues). Kana and Perry are ok for now.

I’ve been puttering (pottering for some of you) around with my writing lately. Continuing to tweak the memoir that looks WAY different than it did a couple of years ago. Revising poems and sending them out.  I might take a look at some old prose pieces, too, and see if anything can be done with them. This feels like where I am right now: refining, not originating. And that’s ok. It takes less energy, but is still rewarding. That is a good thing in this time of much busyness in business, as well as family and cat stuff going on.

There are only three months left to reach my 2019 publication goal. Luckily, I have a new poem up which I posted about on Saturday. Here it is: BEHOLD THE NEEDLE at Thimble Literary Magazine.

If you celebrate Rosh Hashanah, L’Shanah Tovah! If you celebrate fall, Happy October tomorrow. Friday is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. He holds a special place in my heart. The animals and the environment, you know. Make it a great week.

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Adding this fun update. Remember when I wrote about my music box? According to Robyn who blogs at Holding to the Ground it was in January. She took me up on my request that you guys write about the secret life of an object! It’s a wonderful piece–enjoy and see if you don’t get ticked off at her mom, too (by the way). The Secret Life of a Clock Radio

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