Category Archives: Nonfiction

Scrapping Scraps

In September I posted photos of the fabric scraps I still have from my childhood. The inspiration for ruminating on what to do with them came from a couple of sources. One was Dawn Raffel’s book The Secret Life of Objects.  The other was Swedish death cleaning–getting rid of stuff so my kids are not one day burdened with it.

I promised I would do something with the scraps, and I have not forgotten. I am far from the point of actually getting rid of the fabric, but did start a project that was suggested by sarahsouthwest.

I’m making a scrapbook of scraps! For each page I plan to include a fabric remnant, a story or description of the memory it stirs up, and, if possible, a photograph of the garment made of the fabric. So far I’ve only made the cover and one page, but thought you might want to follow along with the process. I’m not very good at crafts, but hey, it’s mine, baby, all mine.

 

 

First, I chose an ugly on-sale scrapbook and then padded it and covered it. I selected a print corduroy from the late 1960s for the front cover and a gingham from the early 1960s for the back.

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You can see what my first page looks like in the slideshow above. I decided to keep the page very plain and even left the raw edge of fabric visible. In the photograph you can see me wearing the sleeveless tent dress that my grandmother made for me. It has a high yoke decorated with large embroidered white daisy appliques. I loved that dress. It was so comfy and very pretty. The type of fabric was called “whipped cream,” and was lightweight, airy, with a little texture to it. My mom’s cotton or cotton/poly fitted dress, also sewn by Grandma, was very Barbie-style.

This is the story I wrote about what the dress and the photo remind me of:

 

In this photo, my parents and I are in Canada, seated at a restaurant in the 1967 International and Universal Exposition.

 

The summer I turned 12 is the one I will always remember as a peaceful and memorable week with my parents. We left my 4-year-old brother with my grandparents in Kalamazoo and drove to Montreal for Expo ’67, the World’s Fair.

 

We stayed in Montreal at the winter (city) home of my grandfather’s 2nd cousin, Harold Remine, the Chief Engineer of Quebec Hydroelectric. It was a beautiful and elegant brown brick row house. The dining room was complete with all the requisite china, crystal, and silver. But the house was not large, and I had to share a bedroom with my parents.

 

Harold and Lillian also had a lovely lake home, which we visited. Harold introduced me to curling, a sport I had never heard about before, by taking us to a curling club.

 

The Expo itself excited and exhausted me. It had some elements in common with a state fair or Disneyland, a place I had not yet visited. There were snow cone and cotton candy booths, hot dog and burger stands. A caricaturist drew my likeness holding a book. I was disappointed afterward that I hadn’t given him a better hobby. Reading seemed so nerdy. But the truth was that I read more than I did anything else.

 

Each participating country sponsored a magnificent pavilion that was supposed to reflect the national personality. The U.S. pavilion was a huge geodesic dome—this is a sphere that is built of short struts that follow geodesic lines (the shortest line between two points on a sphere) and form an open framework of triangles or polygons. There were very, very long escalators that seemed to hang in “thin air,” and the park’s elevated minirail ran through the structure. The effect of being inside the pavilion was of being suspended in space. I believe I saw a doll collection and space race memorabilia, but since I was afraid of heights, I mainly remember my fear.

 

My favorite pavilion was the Burmese one. Under its appealing multi-roofed pagoda design, a gigantic golden Buddha dominated the interior lobby. I suspect that the restaurant in the photo is the Burmese one. To this day, it is my favorite type of food. If you haven’t been lucky enough to eat it, it is a cross between Thai and Indian food.

 

Habitat 67, a futuristic housing development, was situated near the edge of the fairgrounds. It reminded me of photos of Anasazi dwellings for some reason. I was both repelled by the makeshift quality and fascinated by a new way to conceptualize living quarters.

 

I guess my parents had decided not to bring my brother because he was too young to appreciate the cultural opportunity or even to go on the fair rides. But when we got home to Kalamazoo and stopped at Grandma and Grandpa’s to pick him up, he was flushed with a high fever. He sat on someone’s lap, and somebody else snapped a pic a second before he leaned over and threw up on the floor. That’s when I started to feel guilty that we had left him behind.

 

Habitat 67 from Wikipedia

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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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This Time of Year

Starting last winter the gardener and I had a business project begin that has taken up a lot of our time. It’s been difficult to write in the midst of it, although I tried to do some writing. I also had my mother here for about 10 weeks in the spring. Throw in a couple of trips on top of the extra work. Then recently Mom was here again for two weeks, and I began The Artist’s Way program (FYI: bad timing to begin at this time of year). Felix had serious health problems beginning in August, as well.

Then week before last my grandcat Meesker had a urinary blockage, just like Felix. He, however, needed further surgery because of stones in the bladder. Although he’s doing fine it upset our holidays plans, as well as some other big plans in our family.

We had to change everything. And my daughter’s boyfriend had to change the date for a marriage proposal. This past week was pure chaos as we made a business trip to California, had car trouble the third time in a row, made it back in time for the proposal and little party afterwards, and then had our Hanukkah/Christmas family celebration.

I am ready to COLLAPSE. Seriously. Collapse.

The gardener and I developed colds, but I’m so glad that everyone seems pretty well right now other than that–including all the cats, the grandcats, and the granddogs. We had that darling puppy Riley here all day on Saturday. She was so  good, only pooing in the house once. The cats were interested in her, but she tended to nap when they stared at her.

Going back to the proposal. YAY!!!! We are all excited because we love her boyfriend. They were friends for twelve years before dating, so we’ve known him for thirteen years. He proposed at the elegant Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort, which was decked out for Christmas. In fact, they have a Winter Wonderland, complete with pageant, every year.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort lobby

He proposed at the fountain in front of this giant Christmas tree that changed colors. The song playing was “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” It was on a music loop, so it was just chance that it wasn’t an uptempo Christmas song, but a more romantic-sounding song.

The staff was in on the proposal, so they were relaying information by text messages to each other and to a group of us waiting in hiding:

“They are leaving the restaurant.

They are stopping at the bathroom.

They are rounding the corner.”

All went well. My daughter is over the moon with happiness and loved the old-fashioned-style proposal.

Saturday my son made gluten-free latkes for us. He used an entire bag of giant russets, so we still have leftovers. (Yay because they are my favorite). I prefer them with sour cream, not apple sauce. How about you?

 

My mother pulled a fast one on me, by the way. When she was here, she had me drop her at the mall. Apparently while she was there, she purchased me an entire set of Fiestaware dishes! Then she had my daughter pick them up and hold them until Saturday when the kids all carried them out to me.

I’ve wanted Fiestaware for ten years, but couldn’t justify it because I have perfectly good dishes that I hate. I was so touched because it’s one of the nicest things my mother has done for me. She might be 85, but she still loves me :).

Hah, I don’t like to think that I am that materialistic that purchasing an item shows love, but the whole notion of my mother getting the idea of buying them for me and carrying out the plan because she knew I love the dishes really made me happy.

She chose four colors, plus serving pieces in other colors. Here are three of the colors. Aren’t these pretty plates?!!!

Now that we celebrated with our family, the rest of the month should be less hectic–and for that I am grateful.

Hugs as you travel through sluggish traffic and on cantankerous air travel, if you are doing so. And I can’t imagine too many don’t have to go out on the busy streets.

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Who Inspired You?

One of the first epiphanies that I experienced from The Artist’s Way occurred at the first meeting of my local group. I wrote about it in a blog post for the Brevity blog. I’m so excited to see it up there today, in such great company. If you want to read a variety of voices on the craft of writing, be sure to follow their blog.

MODELING THE ARTIST’S LIFE at Brevity Blog

Now really think about it. Who inspired you? Don’t think of who you are supposed to mention. Who really and truly inspired you to something MORE?

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It’s Old Hat

It took me a week to respond to comments on last week’s post. What a slacker!  I’m so sorry! Mom is here, though,

Oh, look at that hummingbird out the window flitting from yellow blossom to yellow blossom (on some sort of tree or huge bush we have), drinking out of each little cup :).

Is it worse to interrupt oneself or someone else?

Anyway, Mom is here, and I am trying to keep up with her. Thanksgiving coming up and then her birthday party a few days later.

Saturday night we attended a bat mitzvah shindig. Second best part was the martini bar.

They offered lemondrop, cosmo, gin, and one other kind–vodka ones? The chocolate fountain wasn’t bad either.

The best part of the night was I found myself a new OLD HAT. If you recall I was in love with that fishing hat I got in New Orleans and lost in Tampa. I first wrote about it here: A Tip O My Hat.

When  the DJ started the music, he turned on all manner of flashing lights. Ms. Complicated Migraine here can’t tolerate those. I asked the event planner if she had a hat with brim I could wear. She pulled one off the costume stand for me.

 

Later they said it looked so good–so RIGHT–on me that I could keep it. Hahahaha. If you want to see it on me, I may or may not post a pic on my Instagram account (catpoems).

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL WHO CELEBRATE! XOXOXOXO

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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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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?

***

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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The Boss’s Tail: Part 6 of The Caterbuddy Tails

My name is Kana, which derives from the name Nakana, but is not short for Nakana. I am Kana, jungle panther, black velvet empress of the realm.

Being the boss is the most important job in the world because without a boss the underlings are without direction. Being the boss is unrewarding and difficult, but it is my purpose in life.

How would Mom handle these kids without me to help? The night I first met Mom and Dad (4 1/2 years ago) I could tell they were a little clueless and needed some help around Casa Castle. I was unappreciated at the shelter at that time because the roaming room was ruled by a monstrous male cat called Henry. Because I was the obvious choice for boss, Henry thought I was his enemy. I would have been content to rule jointly, but he told me that a female wasn’t going to be a boss when he was around. Henry attacked me, so the shelter put me in prison for my protection. I was in my cell when I spotted Mom. She glanced over at me, and I stood up on my back legs and drilled her with my piercing hypnotic stare. She was a goner after that.

But Mom and Dad didn’t take me home. I knew I had smittenized her, but they left me there. Week after week, they visited us for their janitorial and librarian duties, but they left without me. I got ringworm and had to go to the hospital room which might as well be an asylum straight out of Dickens. When that finally cleared up, they shipped me over to Petsmart, which is frequented by the lowest types. They obviously do not realize the talents of an 8-year-old big black female cat as they oohed over the silly kittens and prissy cats. I sat there under glass as if I were a pheasant waiting to be served. They brought me back to the shelter as if I were a loser.

For the first time in my life, I became clinically depressed. What is a boss without peons to boss around? My life was over. Or so I thought.

One day, months after first meeting Mom and Dad, Mom came into the roaming room with a kennel. I was nearly suicidal by that point and ignored her. When she picked me up, I snapped at her. But she held on and pressed me into the kennel and snapped it shut. She brought me home.

But I wasn’t going to make it easy for anybody who made me wait like that. No matter that she had been waiting for her old cat to die before she could get me. That she had been telling everyone about me and how she wanted me to come live with her. Hmmph!

To show Mom–and Dad too–who is boss I started a campaign to run their stupid runty calico Tiger out of town. I had her quivering and shaking and running and crying. But my mother is as stubborn as I am. She came up with all kinds of tricks to protect Tiger. She never gave up on me either.

So I stopped bothering Tiger because it wasn’t getting me anywhere. And besides by then Mom and Dad knew I was boss. Mom loves and respects me so much. Dad respected me from the beginning, especially my teeth, but it took him longer to love me. He started looking out for my best interests and became my buddy.

Life was the best at that point. I was boss of the casa. Mom figured out I have IBD and gives me the right food so my stomach doesn’t hurt.

Then Perry arrived. [Kana visibly shudders.]

Perry is a handsome young male cat. He is good-natured, but unfortunately he also wants to be boss. Everyday we have to have little tiffs to see who gets to be in charge. The truth is, since he’s a nice boy and just learning I often let him think he’s in charge. But we know that I am the real boss just letting him have his baby way.

I am now 12 years old. Pear is the oldest at 19, but she is independent and doesn’t want the responsibility of management. Then Tiger is 15. She’s grown a lot since I’ve gotten here. I take credit for her transformation. Felix is 13. He’s a sweet boy who gives me no trouble. Then me. There are two younger than me: Sloopy Anne and Perry. These five are my minions. My underlings. My “kids.” I AM BOSS.

Sleepy Kana

INTRODUCING MY MINIONS:

The Baby’s Tail

The Dowager’s Tail

The Bitch’s Tail

The Outlier’s Tail

The Kitchener’s Tail

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