Category Archives: #writerlife

My Essay Published by North Meridian Review

This news has been in process for some time, but I’m thrilled to share an essay I wrote about the loss of retail business, featuring my hometown Kalamazoo, Michigan. I am so thankful to editor Wesley R. Bishop and the journal North Meridian Review for publishing this essay. NMR is a super cool journal hosted by academics from several Indiana Universities and specializing in interdisciplinary scholarship, culture, and art.  In other words, NMR is a hybrid entity, straddling the creative and academic worlds.

“A Long Time from Burdick Street” is named thus because Burdick Street was an important artery for retail in days past–and still is the heart of the downtown. In fact, Kalamazoo was known for building the nation’s first outdoor pedestrian mall. Time changed, and eventually the downtown section of Burdick had to be reopened to traffic, but I grew up with the mall. Further south on Burdick Street my grandfather grew up–his family home and parents’ businesses were on Burdick–and he stayed there and raised his own family, running a Sunoco gas station at the corner of Burdick and Balch.

Disclosure: I used a fake name for the gardener because he’s such a private person. I keep changing his identity in my writing. Maybe he won’t be able to find himself that way. 😉

Here is a link to the issue–you can find my essay starting on page 104:

NORTH MERIDIAN REVIEW

My MIL painted the mall when the gardener and I were first going out. It had been commissioned by Irving Gilmore, of the department store family. She used to sit in her burnt orange Opel hatchback, painting. When she picked me up from work her car smelled like oil paints.

 

I’ve written in the past on this blog about the loss of retail: RIP Dreamland. At that time, I was focused on the loss of Marshall Field (“Field’s”) and shared a photo of the location of my family’s 19th century retail business in the Netherlands.

Hope you enjoy this new piece!

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My Kitty and His DNA

People who know Maine Coon cats often think Perry is part Maine Coon. It’s his face shape, the tiny tufts on the tips of his ears, his long fluffy tail, and his affectionate, intelligent, and very chatty personality. So when I was feeling really bad about losing Pear, Felix, and Izzie, I bought a DNA test for Perry as a present for myself.

DNA tests for dogs always made more sense to me than ones for cats. There is such a wide variety of dog breeds, and it can help to know what the needs are, depending on what combination of breeds make up your mutt.  DNA tests for people make a lot of sense for me because I love family history and genealogy, plus I’m such a Nancy Drew that I like investigating things. The gardener calls me “Sherlock.” That is in addition to all the other nicknames.

So maybe it’s that curious streak thoroughfare that runs through me that made me want to see the results for Perry.

Soon after the kit arrived, I gathered Perry’s spit, packaged it up, and sent it off. This is the activation notice I got on the website for Wisdom Panel, the company I used.

I was prepared to wait for a month or two because that’s how long it took for human and dog DNA I’ve sent in. But I got the results in  just a couple of weeks.

This is a Maine coon cat, by the way, so you can see what they look like. 

You could have knocked me over with a cat sneeze when I took a look at Perry’s breed mixture.

81% American Domestic cat. That’s not surprising. But wait. The next breed listed is NOT Maine Coon. He’s 11% Sphynx cat!!!!!!! 11% means that one of his great-grandparents was a Sphynx.

Sphynx cats are bald!!! They are extremely intelligent and are also one of the most dog-like cats in personality. So now we know where Perry gets his neediness :).

More information from Perry’s DNA suggests that he is white and one other color, has a long tail, and is long-haired.  The best part of the test is that he tested negative for the 49 health issues that Wisdom Panel tests for. He happens to be blood type A like his human mama and papa.

Now he can relax! Perry says HAPPY HANUKKAH on this first day of Hanukkah!

 

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The Mother of All Cards

Almost exactly a year ago I pulled The Destroyer from the Wild Unknown tarot deck. Yesterday it was time to pull another card. My life has taken some shifts this year, and I wanted to see from what angle I should examine it all.

This time I pulled another really important card: The Mother.

I love the art on this card: nest, rope/snake, cupping hand, egg, pearl. WOW!

The Mother is represented in traditional tarot by The Empress card, but in this tarot deck, The Mother is more akin to the Mother archetype. Perhaps even The Earth Mother archetype.

Positive aspects: Feminine energy and power. Benign. One’s inner mother. Of the earth. Abundance. Creation. Sustenance.

But one’s inner mother develops when a child is developing. Is your inner mother nurturing and supportive or critical and judgmental?

Why did I draw this card at this time in my life? That is what I will be exploring over the holidays. I do know that seeing this card gives me peace.

If you live in the U.S., may you have a peaceful Thanksgiving! Otherwise, make it a special (peaceful) week anyway.

 

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Why I’m Not Writing, Probably

2021 is a weird writing period for me. I am awaiting presales of my new poetry book in May (release is scheduled for September 2022). I have sent out my memoir to see what happens to it. That will probably take a long time. Then I have 3 essays that are taking forever to be published–in fact, one of them, I don’t know if it will be published or not as I’ve lost contact with the journal’s editor. Maybe I should send the piece out again. I’ve been waiting on a few poem publications. And I stopped writing. That doesn’t usually happen to me.

I think it has to do with waiting on these books. I feel disoriented and unfocused.

Luckily, my creativity group is working on two books by Eric Maisel that I think will help. We are reading Unleashing the Artist and doing exercises in The Creative Workbook for Coaches and Creatives. For the first exercise, we listed all the creative projects that we have going on–either in process or imagined. Then we had to assign values as to how important they were. That was eye-opening. Give it a try!

I wrote a book review of a new poetry book this weekend and sent it off to a journal. And I have one more review I committed to for December. Then I have to say NO for awhile.  I do not know how anybody can tackle NaNoWriMo in November because of the holidays. That blows my mind to even think about it! If you are doing it, you are probably not reading this right now.

Make it a good week, everyone!

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Review of Grief Songs by Elizabeth Gauffreau

Congratulations to Elizabeth Gauffrau on the publication of her new book. I’ve reviewed it below, and Liz will be responding to comments today!

Her new poetry collection, Grief Songs, is a deeply personal and yet universally appealing memoir in poems and photographs. The focus is on the nuclear family that Gauffreau was born into: her mother, father, brother George, and herself. Most of the poems are tankas.

Click on the cover image to purchase at Amazon.

 

A tanka is a Japanese syllabic poetry form consisting of five lines, 5/7/5/7/7. Like Haiku, these poems use economy of language to create an image, often from nature, and usually express emotions of love or loss. Because of the way phrases and images are “set” one after another in tankas and the short length of the poem, tankas create an impressionistic art that requires an active, rather than passive, reader.

The title plays upon the meaning of tanka as “short song,” as well as the elegiac aspect of the project. After the epigraph, Gauffreau lists the names and dates of her three relatives in headstone fashion. In this way, the reader understands the others have all passed. The book’s structure is remarkable in that each tanka is mirrored by a family photograph. Photos really are a perfect pairing with tankas because they provide another dimension to an elliptical form.

In “Boy Scout Badge,” we see a photo on the left of George and Daddy standing together on a dirt road. The tanka to the right reads:

walk a dusty road
distance meritorious
no badge without proof
Daddy matched him step for step
hot August sun beating down

We meet here a father who is partially responsible for his son’s success. He has to walk that same long distance as his son in the heat so that George can prove he deserves his merit badge.

Later on, in “Yearbook,” a teen George with the long hair of the 70s leans against the Coke machine at school. On the next page, we

see George strike a pose
Coke machine, casual lean
no caption needed
George Gauffreau enjoys a Coke
classmate, friend, brother, deceased

The succinct nature of the tanka only gives away the poet’s grief at her brother’s early death with that one word “deceased” piggybacked onto “classmate, friend, brother.” Also notice the long O sound repeated in the first four lines. Then that fifth and devastating line differs markedly in sound.

“Family Reunion,” the penultimate poem of the collection, shows a family group photo paired with:

we did not expect
Indian summer so soon
early morning sun
haze lifts, mountain range appears
but only for a moment

In classic tanka style, this poem focuses on a season, a glimpse, one image, but in so doing tells us a lot about love and loss. The mountain range appears “but only for a moment,” just as our families are together for what seems later on to be merely a “moment” in time. We are lucky to have these reunions when we can because before too long, we will have family members to mourn.

Elizabeth Gauffreau’s heartfelt poetry can be enjoyed by poetry newbies and aficionados alike.

You can find Liz here:

WEBSITE: https://lizgauffreau.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.Facebook.com/ElizabethGauffreau
LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/liz-gauffreau
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau
GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/egauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. Recent publications include Woven Tale Press, Dash, Pinyon, Aji, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and Evening Street Review. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published in 2018. Learn more about her work at http://lizgauffreau.com.

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Feliz Día de los Muertos

Today begins Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. If you’re not familiar with the holiday you might think it strange to greet someone with “Feliz Dia de los Muertos,” but the special day is one for celebration.

You already saw the nicho I made for the cats, but when I was preparing the box, I actually prepared two at once. After the cat nicho was done, I thought I would make one (or an ofrenda, although the religious connotation of that makes it not quite the right word as I am not Catholic) for loved ones in heaven of the gardener and myself.

So Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

***

Guess who is visiting this week? My mom!!! First time I’ve seen her in two years!!!!

Make it a great week!

 

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10 Real Life Home Fashion Choices from the 1970s

Part of research for writing can be mining one’s own past environment.  I made a list of the early 70s fashion items which impressed themselves most indelibly in my memory. Maybe you even have some of these goodies in your own home today. (I admit that I have two of these items).

  1. The fork and spoon on the kitchen wall. Ours came from an interior designer who rented an old house from my dad for her business. When she couldn’t pay the rent and wanted to move out, she gave him some merchandise in lieu of the back rent. These items included the big wooden eating implements. I couldn’t find a photo of ours when I wanted them, but there are images all over Google.
  2. The long, low brown, tan, or gold couch with the beige drapes. The sample here is from my in-laws’ house. Being Canadian, my MIL still called the couch a chesterfield. Also please note the Stiffel lamp and the leggy houseplants.
  3. The small, light-colored television set. In the following photo, once again we have a long, low brownish couch–this time it’s in my parents’ living room. The same beige drapes that my in-laws had. To watch our TV you had to sit in one of the two arm chairs that were facing the couch. Remember that these couches were not for lying down to watch TV. Most people weren’t couch potatoes. This couch was “Swedish modern,” and it was very uncomfortable. Photo shows Dad, brother, and me at one of our usual pastimes, Monopoly.
  4. The odd hotel-like artwork on walls. In this case, we have a rug in a fake design (as opposed to a real hooked design). Bland paintings and posters were other common wall hangings, as were macrame plant hangers. Notice that the following image also features a couch of the time period–in this case, there is a pattern. The lamp and shade are similar in shape to the Stiffel.
  5. The table/lamp combination. Here is my MIL at another relative’s home. We all had these lamps.
  6. Large feathers, even peacock, or pampas grass stuck in vases or baskets to decorate corners of rooms. In the following photo, the chair is a mini version of the couches, and the lamp once again has the same shape.
  7. Paneling on the walls. Wood paneling was particularly popular in living rooms, family rooms, and basement rec rooms. This one is a rec room, and my brother is trying to keep from being stabbed with a dart.
  8. Another favorite for walls was flocked wallpaper. Which was worse: the wallpaper or my perm?
  9. Long strands of beads instead of draperies. In the window behind Uncle Frank we have a “wall” of green beads on our kitchen window. Also, please note the strange plastic “canisters” for storage, both on the counter and hanging from the cabinet.
  10. The large, free-standing microwave on its own cart. Good grief. As if it’s a kitchen altar. I must mention the gold wall phone. That cord was always tangling up dishes, food, and pens.Make it a great week, everyone!

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When You Were a Kid, Who Was Your Hero?

Seven and a half years ago I posted about a childhood hero of mine. He was my 4th grade teacher. You can find the link here: Everyday [Super] Hero. I want to take a break from writing this week, so I looked at my stats for the first time in a loooooooooooooong time to see which post had the least amount of views. Other than two “WP business” type posts, this one had the least. That made me a little sad because heroes deserve to be recognized. I’ll close comments over here, but if you leave a comment over there I will see it. Let’s make it a healing week.

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Making After Loss

On my last post about losing all the kitties, Linda Raha suggested I make scrapbooks for the kitties. She knew that that would be right up my alley. What she didn’t know is that I was already making something to remember my dears by.

Using my art journaling supplies and a carton that cat food comes in, I made this so that all the kitties (including Mac who I lost in 2015) are together, right where I can see them all the time.

The cat bed and bowls are dollhouse-sized. The kitty on top was a gift. Here is a close-up of the kitty pix.

Upper left is my heart Pear, then clockwise, Mac, Felix, and Izzie.

Monday I had the vaccine booster shot, and I felt fine yesterday morning. But then I started to get sick with a 101 fever and then painful lymph node swelling under my arm, reaching into my chest and back and down to the tips of my fingers. I had finger cramping last night, but not this morning, so maybe I will be getting better soon.

Well, i wanted to share with you my little cat nicho. Make it a great rest of your week.  XOXO

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In a Fog

This has been such a difficult three months for me. On the one hand, I am blessed that I am not recently mourning any of my human relatives or close friends. But two of our long-time kitties and one of our kitty grandkits have passed away–one in July, one in August, one in September. Isabella Rose, or Izzie, was my daughter’s cat, only 11 years old, and I used to babysit her alllll the time. I loved babysitting her. She would walk in as though she owned the place. She had the other cats convinced of just that. We had Felix for fifteen years, and he was such a gentle, sweet soul. He endured chronic GI problems for years, but we set up a camera over his litter box and monitored his “schedule” for two years. I didn’t mind at all because I loved him so much.

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that the latest loss is my closest friend, my heart, Pear Blossom. She was 21 1/2, but that only makes it harder because we were together for so long. So many of my people have known her over the years. And with her kind and helpful personality, she touched so many lives. Pear and Felix were from my first group of three cats. They were very good friends–the three mousketeers. Macavity passed away in 2015. If you would like to read the story of how Mac, our first cat, came to be a part of our family–and how the gardener changed from a self-avowed cat hater–you can read this story: My Own Cat Hero or a Loss Upon a Loss

Why do kitties always take a turn for the worse on the weekend when one is least likely to find one’s vet available? Izzie passed on a Sunday, and both Felix and Pear on Saturdays. And yesterday, on Saturday, Tiger got sick!!!!! I took her to the ER after calling them and making sure. But when we were getting checked in, the vet called in sick. They sent me to another ER across town. At that one, the vet was just going into surgery and the wait would be hours. I was concerned that Tiger could have a urinary blockage as she had been running in and out of the litter box, unable to pee. By this time my vet was open (only open mornings on Saturdays) and although they were completely booked up, she let me drop off Tiger so she could be examined between patients. Luckily, Tiger turned out to have a UTI, not a blockage.

Being there at the euthanasia of three cats in three months has made me feel like the Angel of Death. I’m a benign zombie, not fully in the moment. The couch is soooo lonely without Pear next to me, even if another cat comes to me. I can only sleep at night with the little blanket Pear used in the last few weeks of her life.

Of course, life keeps on happening, right in the face of grief. But I’m trying to go easy and not push myself right now.

I had posted the following pic on Instagram in September 2019, while I was babysitting Izzie. I felt like Snow White with the 7 little cats–so happy to have them all together in my home. But now it’s easy to see the devastation.

Don’t worry: Tiger and Kana still make me work hard with all their needs. And Perry needs lots of attention because he’s grieving more than the other cats. He is at loose ends much of the time, with a sad look on his face.

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