Category Archives: Family history

Bits and Pieces of Living

At least October’s poetry writing month is over so I don’t have to feel guilt about not writing much. We are now into the big novel writing month, which I don’t participate in, having NO clue how to write a novel. I’m still spending more time revising, organizing, and submitting than I am writing anything original.

I’m also reading several new-to-me poems a day. I’m reading at least one novel, two memoirs, and one children’s book right now.

And I’m getting my morning pages done by bedtime.

But I also am juggling work-work, home-work, and cat-work, as well as trying to fit in the other bits and pieces of The Artist’s Way.

And I cannot stop my hit or miss exercising, which mainly consists of stationery cycling, some stretches, and a few weights.

It sounds like a lot, and it is, so can I keep it up? Through the holidays? HAHAHAHA.

All this and worries about what recipe to use for gluten free stuffing.

I almost forget the most exciting thing. I discovered Christopher Buckley’s poetry. I guess there is a political person with that name, but this is Christopher Buckley the poet. Here’s a sample.

Getting There

Time to give up
grieving my mother’s loss,
faulting my father and
his Neolithic moral certitude
about every detail
on the evening news,
his general absence
hanging like the gray
sheets on the line.
Never mind how
mismatched in the heart,
I should be grateful
they were there at all,
for that moment
that childhood stretched
like fog, the beach empty
and unmarked.
It comes to little now
who I forgive, mourn,
or thank. The dust shifts
and we are barely
suspended in the light.
I know this little thing:
there’s a boy somewhere
in a station where
the trains still run,
wearing scuffed brown shoes,
gray overcoat, and cap;
someone has neatly parted
and combed his hair.
He is waiting
to be taken by the hand
and told where we are going,
to hear we are headed home—
though I can see nothing
beyond the smoke
and midnight haze
at the far end
of the platform,
where I am not
even sure of the stars.
Poetry (May 2012)
I do love how this poem speaks to the importance of our childhood experiences of family and place.
For the week ahead: Go get ’em, Tiger! (Haha, does that date me or what?) And, no, dear Tiger is not involved in that expression. Tiger says hi from her outdoor playpen.

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Filed under #amrevising, Family history, Memoir, Poetry, Reading, Submissions, Writing, Writing Talk

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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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Family history

Memory Remnants Redux

Last week I posted some photos of fabric scraps leftover from my childhood. You guys (as my Michigan roots instruct me to phrase it) helped me with ideas of what to do with the scraps, ranging from giving them to a church to quilters to sewing cat beds to making a scrapbook. You also gave me an idea of how to get rid of the smell of mothballs (thanks, Michelle).  I put them into the dryer, and the smell turned flowery!

I now have plans for the scraps, but it is going to take some time before I can get started. In the meantime I have two more bags of scraps to put through the dryer and leave to air out. So don’t expect to hear back on the scraps for a couple of months!

When I began the process of putting the first bag of scraps into the dryer I discovered that there were a few pieces of unfinished clothing in the lot.

I think all these items were begun during 7th grade, before I had really learned to sew, but was beginning to experiment. These goofy pants crack me up. Were they meant to be pants or pajama bottoms? Judging by the darts, I’d say pants! Thinking back to that first year of junior high, we still had to wear skirts to school. What a different world.

Then there was this top–meant to be strapless, like a tube top in a way. But it turned out to be beyond my ability.

Is this stuff just a hoot? Well, here is a skirt I made and didn’t finish.

Not finishing this skirt did not stop me from wearing it at home. I was halfway through 7th grade, and desperate for new clothes. I also wanted to experiment with styles. So I sewed together the two sides of the skirt and put it on! Then I dressed it up with other pieces. Thought I was the coolest thing ever. And here I am.

I was such a weird kid. But note my bow tie (either my little brother’s or my grandfather’s tie from his Sunoco uniform) and the oxford shirt. I made the vest out of a pillowcase. That turquoise bow on my thigh? PJ bottom peeking out

That table and chairs? Pretty sure it came from Polk Brothers in Chicago. Anybody remember that store? Oh my gosh, I just realized that the napkin holder on the table? I made that that year at home on my father’s lathe. I still have it. OK, weird kid, weird adult. I must save everything the least bit sentimental. I made that thing for my mother on my own on that big piece of equipment. Painted it yellow and slapped on some decals. A few years ago, my mom gave it back to me. I guess she was finished with it ;).

Then I must have decided to match a gold and white stripe knit top with the skirt. When one of my parents tried to take a picture of my designer-wannabe endeavor, I fled out of embarrassment (my usual state at this age).

That was the end of my designing career.

How’s about that ladder in my tights?

Or, who was that person?

A couple of pieces of fabric in the bag had prices still attached. Look at this seersucker. I bought it at Thrifty Acres, which eventually became Meijer’s.

Joann’s is still selling seersucker, although I’ll bet the quality is not the same. Those old fabrics were excellent, which is why these scraps are 50 years old and look like new.

Now it’s $9.99/yard. It looks like I paid $1.18/yard. I guess the most astonishing thing is that people are still buying seersucker!

My original seersucker was from a time period where we were looking back to the 1920s Gatsby look. What would it be used for today?

Make it a great week!

 

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing, Writing prompt

Memory Remnants

It’s been months since I’ve written about the Secret Life of an Object (credit due to Dawn Raffel’s book). The other day I needed to make room in a closet and felt I should confront 3 vacuum-seal bags of old fabric scraps.

My paternal grandmother was a marvelous seamstress and tailor. I wrote in the posts, The Love Factor of Dolls and RIP Dreamland, that she was Head Fitter of the 28 Shop at Marshall Field’s flagship store in Chicago. When I was eleven, she moved to Kalamazoo, just down the block from us, and spent her early retirement years sewing clothes for us–especially my mother and me. In junior high, I learned to sew in  Home Ec class, and I began to sew my own clothes as well.

The motivating factor for me to sew was that my father wouldn’t buy clothes for me, but would buy fabric for me any time I wanted it. So if I wanted a new skirt, top, jumper, dress, or scooter-skirt (mini culottes), I needed to make it myself.

I think of the remnants of all this sewing Grandma and I did as Grandma’s fabric scraps.

I decided to unpack one vacuum bag and air them out. You see, some dummy (that would be me) put mothballs in the bag.

Anybody have an idea how to get out the smell of mothballs without having to wash the scraps?

What I found was that a great many of the scraps in this bag were either leftover from items sewn by me or items evoking memories.

In the above pile, you can see a navy gingham and a red gingham. I remember working with these fabrics; at least one item was a smocked top. Either the top or another item used both ginghams together. I wish I could remember it better. The orange floral in the middle was a granny dress with a red border at the bottom. The kelly green with tiny white flowers in the bottom left Grandma used for clothes for my mother and me.

This bright fabric on top with the sunbursts I made into a scooter skirt. It was actually wide-leg shorts with a panel on the front and one on the back that buttoned on.

The hat lady fabric was my absolute favorite. I bought it on sale and made a little flip skirt and bell sleeve top. I wore it all the time. The fabric was jersey, so very comfy and flattering.

Aren’t these fabrics a blast from the past though? Retro, vintage, and ancient haha.

In this pile are fabrics that I remember as well, although most of them were ones Grandma purchased for someone other than me–herself or my mother or my mother’s windows.

Maybe the biggest discovery in this bag, though, was a remnant of the fabric from the curtains of my bedroom when I was very young.

The walls of my room were painted a pale gray. isn’t this fabric great? Maybe these kittens imprinted themselves on me. They could be why I love cats to this day.

Do you have any old fabric scraps?

Since I no longer sew, what should I do with these scraps to give them new life?

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Speaking of cats, the shelter I volunteer at hosted a 10 year anniversary gala. The gardener and I went with our daughter and her boyfriend.

I had to dress up for this shindig! Guess what? Jumpsuits are in style! So I bought a black jumpsuit, wore it with ankle boots  (for my crummy feet), and was good to go. But some people looked great, including the rest of my family.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing, Writing prompt

The Self WHAT?

If you are disturbed by vulgarities and crass language, feel free to skip this post, but please come back next week because I don’t make a habit of subjecting people to it.

I have a nonfiction short story out in a new anthology published by Devil’s Party Press. The theme of this collection is a bad word in the title of each story. Lest you think this is sophomoric hijinks, the writers are all over forty!

Click through the photo if you want to order a copy. My story is called “The Self-Mindf**k.” See, I can’t bring myself to spell it out in public!  As for the title of the anthology, you can read the book cover above.

Seriously, though, my story is childhood memoir, about the way the fear and anxiety of living in my parents’ home over a basement bomber shelter affected my thinking—hence, the self-mindf**k. Here is a little “teaser.”

In the summer I turned six, my father dismantled his cozy basement workshop and built a secret underground bomb shelter out of cement blocks. This intrusion into our home was my first encounter with the Cold War. Television regularly put us through tests of emergency broadcasting via CONELRAD, and at school, duck-and-cover drills were weekly rituals. The goblins in our nightmares were “Commies, Reds, and Pinkos.” The anxiety this threat gave me was palpable and made even more acute because I was supervised by nervous parents. I had to wear a cumbersome lifejacket just to play in the sand at the beach. Overprotective was an adjective created for my mother and father. I don’t know if I would have been a fearful child if I had grown up in a different environment. Maybe part of it was genetic. But a fraidy cat I was–too scared to attempt cartwheels or to ride atop someone’s handlebars. Living across the street from an intimidating dog was one more frightening aspect of life in those days.

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Thanks to Marie K. Bailey  I discovered I could post a deal on my first poetry collection Doll God on this blog. Ten bucks covers a signed copy and postage to a U.S. address I’m so sorry that I can’t offer the same deal to my friends in other countries. However, if you are interested in shipment elsewhere, please email me and let’s try to work something out.

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, Book promotion, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Doll God, Family history, Memoir, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing

Cats and Dogs and Poems, Oh My! And Mysteries, Too!

The American Academy of Poets welcomes in Women’s History Month (March) with this list of poems:

Batter My Heart, Transgender’d God” by Meg Day
The Soul selects her own Society (303)” by Emily Dickinson
I Sit and Sew” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson
Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)” by Nikki Giovanni
Bring Back Our Girls ” by Marwa Helal
Poem about My Rights ” by June Jordan
How to Triumph Like a Girl” by Ada Limón
Exclusively on Venus ” by Trace Peterson
Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich
On Virtue” by Phillis Wheatley

That first poem is a “rewrite” of a famous John Donne Holy Sonnet Batter my heart, three-person’d God which is one of my favorite poems. What do you think about what Day did with the Donne poem?

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I do have an update on my cat Tiger and the test for pancreatitis. Her test is at the very high end of normal. That result, coupled with her other out of whack test results could mean that she has an inflammation of the pancreas. The question is whether she has an inflammation that can improve, but has started a slow decline (kidney disease, for instance) because of her age (15)–or if it’s the beginning of a very serious disease. She is asking for prayers and healing vibes. OK, I am asking on her behalf, but she does want them!

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Here is a cool reading opportunity, as well as an opportunity to help shelter animals, at the incredible bargain price of $.99! That’s LESS THAN A DOLLAR, FOLKS! One of the recipients of the funds is Home Fur Good, the shelter where I volunteer!!!!!!!!! An all-female group of cozy mystery writers wrote a story collection which is available for preorder now through the following sites.  Summer Snoops Unleashed.  Each story is the length of a novella, between 15,000-30,000 words.

Preorder it now because: All the royalties from pre-orders will be donated to the Rescues. Royalties collected after release will go to help authors defray the cost of publishing and marketing. So the time to buy is NOW!!!! I just purchased mine through Apple iTunes!

Maria Grazia Swan is a mystery writer who also volunteers at Home Fur Good. Her story is included in this collection. Maria has published several mystery series, and they are wonderfully written, fun cozies, featuring dogs and cats.

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Lastly, a lil ole reminder about Kin Types as a good addition to Women’s History Month.

“Kin Types exhumes the women who have died long ago to give life to them, if only for a few moments. Through genealogical and historical research, Luanne Castle has re-discovered the women who came before her. Using an imaginative lens, she allows them to tell their stories through lyric poems, prose poems, and flash nonfiction.”

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Filed under #writerslife, Arizona, Book promotion, Cats and Other Animals, Family history, History, Kin Types, Poetry, Writing

Review of Kin Types in Latest Issue of Main Street Rag

Alice Osborn has reviewed my chapbook Kin Types for the new Winter 2019 issue of Main Street Rag. 

 

I love how she calls the book a “labor of love.”

It’s a beautiful issue with fiction and poetry, an essay, and quite a few book reviews, and best yet, it’s only $6! Click this link.

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KIN TYPES IS AVAILABLE AT AMAZON:

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Remember my kitty Tiger, star of The Bitch’s Tale? She has gotten a bit skinny, so I took her to the vet for bloodwork and urinalysis. Her kidney and liver values are now elevated, and she had to have an add-on test for pancreatitis. Please send positive vibes and prayers for Tiger that she just has slow aging issues and not a serious illness. I had thought Tiger was 14, but after recalculating and conferring with my son, we believe she is at least 15.

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Book Review, Family history, Kin Types, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing

Magical Music Box

I forgot about writing posts based on Dawn Raffel’s memoir, The Secret Life of Objects. Joey over at Joeyfully Stated reminded me, so I’m happy to be back at it. I’ve written about the magical bowls of my childhood snacking and the name sign from my grandmother’s mailbox, as well as some jewelry that holds meaning for me.

Maybe the object that I still have that carries my earliest memories is the music box I have had since I was a baby. I know it’s weird, but I am a person with very early memories. I apparently inherited this ability from my grandfather. If you wonder what toddler memories are like, they are exactly like memories from all the other times of your life: vivid and realistic.

When my mother put me down for a nap, she would wind up the music box and set it going. I still remember standing in my crib, looking over the white iron bars, willing the music box to start up again. It didn’t, of course, as it had to be wound by someone.

I think I must have been a hard kid to settle to sleep (undiagnosed ADHD or anxiety?), and I always felt I was missing something. But then again my parents wanted me to nap AND have an extremely early bedtime. As a child I used to play shadow games or read under the covers with my flashlight.

When I became a teen, it was the sixties and incense was very popular, so I used my music box as an incense burner.

Have you ever heard that music is one of the best triggers for memory? Well, my music box–after 60+ years–still works. (Take that you plastic parts in today’s merchandise!)

I did a quick search online for a vintage round metal music box, and there are quite a few that look very similar, even to the color. They are called “powder puff” style. It’s very possible that this music box is from the 1940s and predates me. It could have belonged to my mother or grandmother well before I was born.

Question of the day: what song does the music box play?

Anybody want to play along and write about the secret life of an object? If so, please post the link in the comments here!

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On another note, my uncle has been visiting for two weeks and the kids (daughter and BF) are still living here, so for an HSP like me it’s been Grand Central Station over here.

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing, Writing prompt

Family Histories (Holiday Edition): Dad’s Birthday

Adrienne Morris kindly posted a story I wrote about my dad’s birthday (relates to Christmas, too) on her blog. I hope you enjoy it!

Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Author Adrienne Morris

Welcome to Family Histories (Holiday Edition). I’ve invited readers and bloggers to share holiday themed pieces with the accent on “Family” and “History” in any way they like.

This story by my friend LUANNE CASTLE nearly made me cry so get ready for a beautiful love story!

When I was nine, my mother took my little brother and me to Robert Hall to buy my father a dress shirt and tie. She asked the salesman for a gift box. “It’s for my husband’s birthday.”

As the man turned away, I pulled on my mother’s purse. “It’s not Dad’s birthday! His birthday is the day after Christmas! It’s only June 26!” My mother’s lie shocked me. My brother’s little face, peering up at us, swiveled between Mom and me.

“Shhh, this really is a birthday present, but it’s for your father’s half-birthday!”  As we walked out to the car, my…

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Extreme Circumstances: The Life of Caroline Meier Waldeck (Sixth and Final BROAD STREET Magazine Article)

The sixth and final installment of what research went into the pieces in KIN TYPES, published by the beautiful magazine BROAD STREET.

The Family Kalamazoo

This is the sixth and final week that the beautiful creative nonfiction journal Broad Street magazine has published one of the pieces from my chapbook Kin Types along with documents and photographs that helped me piece together these old family stories.

The subject of the poem “Someone Else’s Story” is Caroline Meier Waldeck, the wife of my grandmother’s Uncle Fred, a German immigrant who, as a young husband and father, was hit by a streetcar and suffered severe brain damage from the accident.

You can read it here: Family Laundry: “Someone Else’s Story” by Luanne Castle

The first feature article is “Family Laundry: “An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought off Dutch Pete,” by Luanne Castle

The second feature article is Family Laundry 2: “What Came Between A Woman and Her Duties” by Luanne Castle

The third feature article is: Family Laundry: “More Burials” by Luanne Castle

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Filed under Family history, Kin Types, Nonfiction, Poetry, Research and prep for writing, Writing