Category Archives: Nonfiction

Less Than Four Weeks

Over the last week we had company and had fun every day. My best friend from junior high visited with her husband. We had fun here in town and also traveled through mid-Arizona to Arcosanti (Paolo Soleri’s unfinished utopian city), Montezuma Castle (cave dwellings), Sedona, Cottonwood, Jerome, and Prescott.  I got myself beyond-tired, that’s how tired! But what a great time, and we will miss them as they live in Indiana.

In fact, I’m so tired I haven’t prepared any photos for your viewing pleasure. Sigh.

Next day, the floor men and the termite man (yes, all men) came to fix our wood floor that was invaded by a few termites. Luckily, they all turned out to be dead (the termites, not the men, thank goodness), but the work lasted twelve hours–and is not done since they haven’t been able to match the stain color yet.

I received two copies of the new issue of Badlands Literary Journal with my poem “The Stuff of Claustrophobia” in it. You might recall an earlier version from when I did the Tupelo Press 30/30 poetry writing event. It’s based on a news event from Mexico where a young bride is misdiagnosed and mistakenly buried alive. When her husband realizes it, he tries to dig her up before it’s too late.

As far as Kin Types goes, the pre-order period has less than four weeks left. I know this sounds really obnoxious, but if FLP doesn’t get enough pre-orders, the chapbook can’t go to press. So if you are considering purchasing one, please do so now while it counts toward that initial important fact: getting it published.

A huge thank you to those who have already placed your order!

Carla McGill, of Writing Customs,  in her advance review, says there are “surprises and multiple perspectives.” Justin Hamm, editor of the museum of americana says “Kin Types exists at the precise place where literature and history intersect to make something both beautiful and true.” 

Carla’s entire review is available through the pre-order link:

 KIN TYPES 

 

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Filed under Arizona, Book Review, Books, Kin Types, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

What Happened to the Cat Who Came to Visit?

A couple of weeks ago I told you the story of the cat who came to visit our yard and how we trapped him so he wouldn’t get eaten by a local predator. I had him neutered and took him to the no-kill shelter where Perry was put into the ISO room until he could be vaccinated and microchipped.

Although the vet and vet techs that did the surgery on Perry realized he was not feral because he was affectionate and even let them handle his family jewels (before the big heist), once he got put into that tiny cage in that little room right next to the big dog room (with their loud chorus of barking) he became withdrawn and very unhappy with humans.

The shelter began to wonder if somebody had made a mistake or even lied about Perry being a stray, but domesticated cat. Maybe he really was feral and, if so, what would the shelter that is designed for putting friendly cats in together until they get adopted into loving homes do with him?

I talked to the wonderful organization Alley Cat Allies that works to better the plight of feral cats and to the spay and neuter clinic that had done Perry’s surgery. It seemed clear to anybody not witnessing him at the shelter that he was not feral. I’ve gone to the shelter every day, but only for a short period of time, to read to him and (don’t tell anyone, please) sing to him. 

Perry’s favorite book

He seems to like the “Riddle Song” and “Billy Boy,” two of my specialties. I put an extra stanza in the latter that always seemed missing from the original. I am careful to show him the illustrations in the picture books and notice that his eyes track the images as if he is really examining them. I find that interesting . . . .

Using a soothing, but pleasantly expressive voice while reading to cats and dogs is very effective with them. It doesn’t get done often enough because of time constraints. Consider reading to shelter animals near you or bring children who are early readers so they can practice their reading skills out on the very nonjudgmental animals. In the Curious George book, Mr. Herb gets angry with George, but I am careful not to show that in my voice to Perry who can’t handle that kind of emotion right now.

The techs and volunteers couldn’t get Perry out of the tiny cage in ISO to move him to a big 3 story cage in the roaming room so that he could have better accommodations and get to know other cats and humans, too, and we don’t have a “cat den,” where a frightened cat goes to hide and the “door” can be shut so you can move him. But finally our cat volunteer and staff member ROCKSTAR Judy maneuvered him into a kennel and moved him to the new cage in the big room. I didn’t get involved in this for two reasons. One is that I want to be a safe person for him, one he doesn’t associate with grabbing and other mean shenanigans. The other reason is my primary lymphedema. Cat bites and scratches can be very dangerous for someone with lymphedema, so I am always aware when working and playing with cats that are not my own (and even my own).

Yesterday afternoon I was heartened that Perry was no longer in his cave. He was sitting in his litter box (hahaha) on the bottom level of the cage. I had put a skirt of towels around the bottom, so maybe that was why. I assume he was in the litter box rather than the soft bed next to it because that bed might be too soft compared with what he is used to outside. I opened the skirt in front and sat on the floor to read to him. Another new cat, Oreo (a very friendly guy), crawled into my lap and stuck his nose in the book. Although I used the book as a little shield between the two cats so Perry wouldn’t get spooked, Perry was quite good at Oreo being so close and even meowed once at him. He also meowed at me and gave me eye blinks, both good signs that he is thawing.

I don’t yet know Oreo’s story, but he and another cat share a cage (that he happened to be out of at the time) and both wear lime green collars. That makes me guess somebody turned them into the shelter because they couldn’t keep them any longer. 😦 New cats generally stay in cages inside the roaming room until they are used to the room and the other cats. Because the two cats are together and are wearing collars, they didn’t live outside like Perry did so they are more social.

Please send good thoughts Perry’s way that he loses his fear (terror) and begins to show his affectionate nature so that he can work his way toward the perfect home for him.

###

With my son’s wedding coming up and other family matters, the only thing I am able to handle right now in addition to work is trying to do a little promotional stuff for Kin Types. Finishing Line Press is very good about providing a sample promo packet, along with sample press releases and the likes, but it all takes TIME, a phantom-like wisp that I have been chasing but not catching for a few weeks now. So although a few ideas for writing have crossed my mind (and disappeared into the horizon) I definitely

#amnotwriting

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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Writing

When a Cat Comes to Visit

Last week was busier than usual. Among a long list of other things (that may or may not include termites and breast cyst colonies–both those suckers travel in packs), the gardener and I trapped a cat that was hanging out in our backyard. I think strays and ferals see our cats through the windows and decide our yard makes a safe place to set up camp.

This one would come sit tall and proud on our pony wall and wait for his dinner. Yes, we had to give him dinners because underneath his long fur he was quite skinny. Besides, dinner is how you trap a cat.

Have you ever seen a cat trap?

They are scary looking, but when you cover it with a blanket, the cat can’t really see how scary it is. He only knows there is good food inside that he doesn’t have to rassle (wrestle for you grammar nazis) to eat.

We didn’t know if this cat was stray or feral. A stray cat will make a good house cat once he gets acclimated. A feral cat probably will not, although you have to take it on a case by case basis. This cat would look at us in the yard, which is unusual for a feral, plus we do not have a feral colony anywhere near. In fact, there are no cats outdoors as a general rule. That is because we have a pack of German Shepherd-sized coyotes and a large bobcat. People who try to have “outdoor cats” in our neighborhood end up inadvertently killing them. In fact, I contacted people through “Next Door,” in the adjacent neighborhoods, and they spoke of the zero cat population and how a Maltese was severely injured by the coyotes.

OUR HUGE BOBCAT

We didn’t know if the cat was male or female, but I was calling it HE and HIM. I had an instinct, but didn’t know if I was right.

After days of luring the cat farther and farther into the trap, we were ready to catch him. That meant that the gardener needed to “set” the trap as he was the one who got the instructions from a friend we borrowed the trap from. It had been a few years since we used a trap. He was busy with stuff and couldn’t be rushed, and I was worried Mr/Ms Stray/Feral would come for dinner too soon. He did. When we came out to set the trap, he was sitting there so proud and so skinny on the wall around our fountain. He watched us very carefully as I put the food all the way to the back and the gardener set the springs. Then we went inside to see what would happen. I worried he would be annoyed and avoid the trap because he saw the trap without a blanket on it and saw it being set.

At first that was true. I watched between the drape and the window frame. He circled the trap, trying to get to the food without entering the open end. Then he left.

Durn it all, I said to the gardener. You should have come out to do it earlier. Only I didn’t say durn.

I was nervous he would get killed before we could catch him. And I was a little anxious that I already had scheduled an appointment for him next day at the spay/neuter clinic. I didn’t choose them for the lower price only, but because they are used to handling feral cats. If he was feral, he would need that expertise. The receptionist asked me if I’d named the cat. I had not even thought to, but after that two names came to me: Perry for a boy and Polly for a girl.

Five minutes later darkness descended on the backyard. I couldn’t really make out the door of the trap. I asked the gardener to come look. He said it was sprung.

So I turned on the porch light and went out to see. Our little gray and white visitor was huddled up miserably inside the trap. The food was untouched.

In the garage I had put a thick blanket on the floor for warmth and then covered that with a Chux pad for potty needs, so I placed the trap there for the night. The spay/neuter clinic would open at 7AM, and the kitty would have to be in the cage all night. I knocked the food out of the cage so he would have an empty stomach for neutering the next day. Although I’d been up all night just a couple nights before (ER visit for the gardener for a kidney stone–I told you we had a lot going on), I got up early to drive “clear across town,” which means a long way through rush hour city traffic.

I’ll be darned if they didn’t do his surgery until after 4PM! Poor thing had to wait in that trap without food or water all that time. And I was so impatient because I wanted to know:

  1. Boy or girl?
  2. Feral or stray?
  3. Feline leukemia negative . . . or not?

PERRY turned out to be stray and negative for feline leukemia. Good news for him! So I brought him over to our shelter fresh off the operating table. What nobody warned me was that some cats act like maniacs while under the effects of the anesthesia. He threw himself against the walls of the cage. It was frightening because I thought he might hurt himself–and it sure seemed a different story than how lovely he was to the vet and vet techs before his surgery. That night in his cage in the isolation room at the shelter, he tipped over his litter box and got it all over, spilled his water all over, and didn’t pee or poo at all. However, he did eat all the kibble that was left for him.

Worried about him, I ran over there first thing the next morning and cleaned and reset up his cage and amenities and gave him a little canned food. He was calm, but scared.

Perry on the bed of the iso cage–the cage is much taller, but it’s underneath the bed

Please send vibes or pray for him, however you’re inclined, that he settles in, loses his fear, and finds a loving home!

###

I hope that Kin Types will be ready for pre-order soon. Waiting to hear from the publisher about that.

I’m participating in the Great Poetry Exchange along with 65 other poets with books. In the month of March I am sending Doll God to one poet and receiving a book from a different poet. I can’t wait!

 

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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Doll God, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing

Man and animals caught in the net of time and life

My love for animals is why I an reblogging Valerie’s important post today on Valentine’s Day.

valeriedavies

Wenka was born on the 21 May 1954, which makes her sixty- three years old this year. She has been in prisons and endured forms of torture, as well as abandonment, much grief and loneliness, throughout her whole life.

She was born in a laboratory in Florida and taken from her mother the day she was born, to be used in a vision experiment which lasted seventeen months. Wenka was ‘only’ a chimp and thus could be used and has been used for the cruel purposes of men all her life.

After the experiment she was sold to a family in North Carolina. Four years later, instead of finding an animal refuge for their pet, they returned her to the Yerkes National Primate Research Centre, as she was supposed to be too big to handle.

Since losing her family – because undoubtedly she would have felt they were –  she…

View original post 1,306 more words

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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Writing

A Matter of Taste

When I was in 3rd grade, my father built us a new house across town. At the time we lived in a small bungaranch (or it is ranchalow?) with a bomb shelter in the basement. In 2014 I wrote a post telling a bit about that bomb shelter.

But this post is about our next house, sort of. My parents pored over architectural plans and made changes so that the house would be exactly what they wanted. It was a very well-constructed white aluminum siding and pink brick ranch with a full basement. My bedroom had a built-in desk, vanity, and bookshelves. We had a wood-paneled family room with fire place, and the living room had a wall of glass looking out to the woods behind. The house was 1,787 square feet (thanks, Trulia), which seemed of castle-like dimensions to me, particularly since I had most of that big basement to play in.

My father had some help from subcontractors, but all the framing, the masonry, and extras like concrete walks and patio were done by my father. With me watching and fetching.

When the house was almost completed, my father said my mother could choose the finishing touch. She could select the color of the front door.

This is where I wish I could put a little cardboard swinging door over the answer so that you would have to guess first. Then you’d pull open the door (like on a page of a child’s cardbook book) and look in shock at the color.

I remembered this story because I read Joey’s red door post on Thursday.

But our door wasn’t red (which is always striking on white or gray houses). Our door was turquoise. Yup. Gulp.

Maybe you love blue for decorating (I generally don’t as I prefer warmer colors). Or even turquoise. Or think it’s teal.

But it’s not. Turquoise is turquoise, and I’m sorry but it is not an appropriate color for a door, even if the rest of the house is lovely.

Flash forward. I moved into my house in Phoenix with its gold-tan stucco walls and dark brown trim–both in a sort of mottled faux finish. The colors suit the landscape here. And they are “house colors.”

After we moved in, I noticed that the faux brown around my windows and doors had started to peel. I went up to the door and pulled at a paint shred that was just hanging. As I ripped it up, I saw the color underneath.

It was turquoise. I am NOT kidding. The whole dang house is trimmed in store-bought turquoise trim. It’s not painted, but permanently coated with turquoise. And it defies paint on the top of it, which is why it peels all the time.

###

When the gardener and I visited Michigan just before my father got sick, we went to see our old houses, schools, and haunts. This is a pic of the pretty house that no longer has a turquoise door. The only thing is, the house was more distinctive looking with the turquoise door. So maybe it’s all a matter of taste–not good or bad–but individual. Sadly, we only lived here for a year and a half because, even after all my father’s work on the house, we couldn’t afford to keep it.

house

I’ve been really busy preparing everything the publisher needs for my chapbook, as well as doing a little work on the memoir. Fingers crossed on how all this goes . . . .

I hope your Valentine’s Day is lovely even if you don’t have a special love. Find someone who would be warmed by a valentine–and deliver. Word of warning if you plan on a bouquet: if they have cats, try to stay away from lilies and carnations, which are toxic to cats. Roses and orchids are safe. And the fewer greens the better because nobody ever seems to know which ones are toxic and which ones aren’t.

Muah!!! xo ❤

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Family history, Lifestyle, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry Collection, Writing

Fresh Air for Cats and Writers

Did you watch that Bowl game yesterday? I sure did. The important one–the Kitten Bowl. (Yes, I saw the other crazy game, too!)

After I bought a cat stroller last summer (see here) it was too hot (for them) for walks or just to get some air, then it was too rainy and cool (for me). This weekend it was just right.

Because I don’t have a catio (a screened-in porch for cats) I don’t like to frustrate the cats that would take most quickly to outdoor life. We are a strictly indoor cat household–for the safety of our cats, the safety of the neighborhood birds, and for my mental health. So I don’t want anybody to get any big ideas.

But Tiger has a very constricted life. She finds Kana and Sloopy Anne very annoying. They like to chase her, and Tiger likes to flee. So she needs little events that make her feel special. Therefore, she was the one who was chosen to go out in the stroller in this beautiful weather.  I put down a wee-wee pad (Chux underpad), just in case she got too excited. But she didn’t have an accident. She felt the breeze on her face and smelled the odors on that breeze. She watched for tiny movements I couldn’t even see. And she listened for her dad’s voice since he was close by.

When she came back in the house, she was thorough about checking out the stroller for the smells it brought back into the house. And she stood her ground afterward, giving Sloopy Anne a nice long smirk.

A writer friend asked me what writing project I’m working on now. I had to admit I feel a little at odds. I have a draft of my memoir completed, but am doing some thinking about it. I have a publisher interested in my poetry/prose chapbook that is based on the lives of women in my family history. I’m not jumping back into poetry or into creative nonfiction right now. Partly, I would like to focus on wrapping up these two projects. But maybe it’s also that I feel a little singed by these genres.  I’ve been working in them for a long time, and they take a lot of emotional strength.

My friend asked me if I was going to work on fiction now. It was her idea, not mine. She might do it herself. I think it’s an idea well worth thinkin’ on pondering. Maybe I could use some “fresh air.”

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Fiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing

A January Overview (Happy It’s Almost February)

So far 2017 has been extremely hectic, chaotic, distressing, you get the drift. My aunt passed away without too much suffering (thanks to hospice), and my mother went home. On Mom’s flight home, she was again required to spend the night in the layover city–this time because of weather in Kalamazoo. After that, she wasn’t sure she wanted to fly again–and my son’s wedding is this spring on the beach in California. But now she feels a little better and is going to look for a dress for the wedding this week (so, yay!).

Kitties are better, although today Pear is getting an ultrasound because something is wrong with her bladder–and we need to know what. The ultrasound has been an option for months, but I’ve put it off because of the cost. I spent so much (on my credit card) in January on veterinary care that the ultrasound no longer looks as expensive because it’s a “drop in the bucket.” Ugh. I think those of us who can and will pay for good veterinary care for our animals are subsidizing the salaries of veterinarians (and clinic costs). I just wish that money went to treat more animals, but I know that not all vets are good about pro bono work.

Speaking of cats, did you see this article? They needed a study to prove that cats are as smart as dogs? I thought that the decision was made a long time ago (cats are smarter ;)).

On another note, we’re still using Home Chef. Don’t turn up your nose at that idea. I don’t know a soul who really has the time or inclination to plan and deliver on 21 meals every single week–and to have 2-3 of them taken off the list makes the other meal planning more rewarding and less onerous.

Steelhead Trout Niçoise

Mojito Lime Chicken

The trout was fabulous–and there was enough salad left for lunch the next day. I also made Mojito Lime Chicken.

And I made Chicken with Basil-Pecorino Cream Sauce. I haven’t made a single Home Chef meal that wasn’t delicious. I served the gardener the basil chicken that looked like the recipe card.

I set his chicken on a tiny bit of the cream sauce because of his lactose intolerance. But for myself I didn’t hold back, and so my plate didn’t look as “well-plated” as his did. Or as the recipe card.

Oh man, was it ever good! Tonight we’ll have a non Home Chef meal of mushroom and cheese omelet. I am an expert omelet maker. I learned from watching  The Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, on TV decades ago. Anybody remember him? Great personality, good teaching skills, and an unfortunate (and terrifying) end to his public career (look him up!). By the way, I also learned about the “chef’s assistant” from Jeff–only he chose sherry and I choose chardonnay (or sake).

I have been revising the memoir because I want to send it to someone for a thorough read-through now that I have rethought and reorganized the structure.  I think I have reached the point that it’s ready. I don’t want to go too crazy with line-editing if it still needs a lot more “big” work.

Also, I have an offer from a publisher for my poetry/prose chapbook about family history. Stay tuned on that one.

Now that things are finally starting to settle down over here, it’s TAX SEASON for me and the business. Ick ick and ick.

Have a good one this week, friends!

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Food & Drink, Memoir, Nonfiction, Publishing, Writing

Writing Advice from Annie Dillard

I hope to be back soon, yakking away. In the meantime, here’s a little writing advice from Annie Dillard:

When you are stuck in a book; when you are well into writing it, and know what comes next, and yet cannot go on; when every morning for a week or a month you enter its room and turn your back on it; then the trouble is either of two things. Either the structure has forked, so the narrative, or the logic, has developed a hairline fracture that will shortly split it up the middle–or you are approaching a fatal mistake. What you had planned will not do. If you pursue your present course, the book will explode or collapse, and you do not know about it yet, quite.

The Writing Life

Where she uses the word “book” you can substitute article, short story, poem, or blog post. It’s true for them all. The advantage to a blog post, of course, is who cares ;)? If you split your post, your readers will be willing to split with you (because they know you and are hanging out by the coffee pot, teapot, or Mountain Dew with you) or they will stop reading at the split and, if you’re lucky, drop by another day.  But in more formal writing, you have to create a beauty of unity every time (even if it does so by disunity).

The structure of my life is temporarily forked, fractured, and threatening collapse, but I might be melodramatic because on top of everything else this month, I’m drinking all liquids today. Guess what for? Haha, that’s right. The dreaded C-word. It’s my first colonoscopy, y’all!

Have a great week and TTYL!

Princess Kana and the Pea

on 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds

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Filed under #AmWriting, Blogging, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing Tips and Habits

Can Always Be Worse Continues

Last week’s title was “It Can Always Be Worse.” Hahaha. Yes, it can! Felix is still isolated for another week, and on Tuesday night Pear Blossom, our oldest cat at 17, got very sick with another UTI and passed a huge (for a tiny cat) blood clot through her urethra. I spent a few hours at the animal ER where they tested and medicated her. Then I came home and slept on the floor of the closet with Felix for 2.5 hours. That is the sort of 2 weeks I’ve had.

Pear got a little worse, but now seems somewhat better. However, the ultrasound at the ER showed she has something weird going on with her bladder, so it’s likely that this huge money suck we’re in the middle of is going to continue.

Mom didn’t bargain for coming to a cat hospital, but that’s what she found here in Arizona. At least she’s here with us.

Spending lots of time with my kitty loves for now. In lieu of a real post, I’ll leave you with this love-ly photo that belongs to my friend Gayle.

Gayle's heart

Please continue thoughts and prayers for Aunt Jean’s comfort and passage.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Lifestyle, Nonfiction, Writing

It Can Always Be Worse

What a week. But I’m on the upside of it now, and that reminds me of a favorite children’s book. It Could Always Be Worse is based on a Yiddish folk tale where a man complains to his rabbi about his small overcrowded house. The rabbi has him add to his inside household, the chickens, the cow, and other animals. The man does what the rabbi instructs. Then when he is ready to pull his hair out, the rabbi has him take the animals back out. When the household is back to its original size, the man is so relieved he stops complaining.

I feel as if I’ve written about this book before, but not sure.

Mom was scheduled to come on Wednesday morning, and I had been having a problem with my leg (part of my lymphedema), but hadn’t found time to treat it. I was rushing around, trying to get stuff done before she comes for a month. Tuesday night, right after dinner, my cat Felix got very sick–vomiting and diarrhea. We ended up taking him to the emergency clinic because we were afraid of a urinary blockage (since male cats are prone to those), but he was diagnosed with a microscopic parasite called Coccidia. It’s very contagious. Yippee! Great to hear when you have 5 cats (4 of them elderly). We started medicating Felix, and separated all the cats from each other!

Wednesday morning I took poos from the other cats to the vet and picked up meds for them, then went to Petsmart and bought disposable litter boxes. Then we had to haul all the plastic litter boxes and other cat paraphernalia out to the driveway for cleaning and disinfecting.

FYI, Felix did not get the Coccidia from the animal shelter where we volunteer. He came to us as a stray with parasites that hid from detection in his intestines, and he has had problems in the past because of his medical history.

Then Mom’s first flight was late, and she missed her connection. They couldn’t find her another flight to Phoenix that day! Eighty-two years old, traveling by herself, and they gave her the wrong shuttle bus name. Then they made her go to some ancient Day’s Inn where the ceiling was crumbling onto the bed. They bought her dinner, but NOT a glass of wine!

She arrived the next day in the midst of the chaos of Coccidia over here. I am exhausted. No hat is going to help me now ;).

But day by day things are getting better (or so I tell myself). And we’re just glad to have Mom here and not in Michigan weather right now.

Even this busy, I am doing a little secret editing. #amwriting

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Lifestyle, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing