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Yesterday was a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day. Today feels much the same. My daughter’s kitty Isabella Rose had to be “put to sleep.”  She got sick a short time ago and was hospitalized. She continued to get worse with no diagnosis. Her suffering was too much, and the vet wanted to euthanize her. My daughter asked me to come with them. So so sad. Izzie was only eleven. She was my daughter’s first pet that she rescued from a shelter right after graduating college. They have been through a lot together and were extremely close.

The vet called them and said she was failing and they should come right away to be with her before she died. My daughter asked for me to come, too, so I rushed over there. It was excruciating to see Izzie that way. In fact, it was harder for me than when my cat Mac died because Izzie is only eleven (her birthday was July 4), and it all came suddenly and shockingly.

Izzie was a beautiful furry granddaughter who I loved to babysit. She got along great with my cats whenever she came over. She would climb up to my long counter of cat beds and choose a bed to lounge in, right next to the other cats. I’m going to miss her terribly.

Note about the photo: it was taken many years ago, before the consciousness-raising about plastic straws.

 

 

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Giving Back to Poetry

I’ve been reading more than usual lately. For one thing, all my Ann Cleeves (Vera, Shetland, 2 Rivers) books on the wait list at the library have been coming available. Then I’ve got a few fiction and nonfiction books I’m rarin’ to read. Additionally, I’m reading a couple of brand new poetry books that I plan to review for journals or this blog. The best way to  understand a poetry collection, for me, is to prepare for writing a review. So reviewing is actually a benefit to me, not just to the poet who wrote the collection.

Something new that I am starting to do is to read the new issues of journals that are emailed to me. It’s not that I didn’t read any of them before, but sometimes I would hit delete if I felt like I had too much going on and plenty to read. But I’ve decided that that is not good because without all these wonderful lit journals a lot of writers, including myself, would be screwed. Then I am choosing one of my favorite pieces from the journal and sharing it on social media.

I have a belief that underlies these endeavors. Too many poets (I can’t speak for creative nonfiction and fiction writers because I know a lot more poets) are so involved with their own writing or maybe the writing of their “big star” inspirations that they do not put enough back into the poetry community. Of course, I include myself in this number.  There are certainly plenty of exceptions to this phenomenon, including the work that lit mag editors and small press editors and owners do, especially those that continue long past the “it will help my career” period. Two special names that immediately spring to mind when I think of helping the poetry community are Trish Hopkinson  whose website is a treasure for poets and Neil Silberblatt who runs the Facebook group Voices of Poetry. I’ve talked about Diane Lockward’s craft books on here several times. Her books, monthly newsletter, and press (Terrapin) are all important to the poetry community. In fact, she has a new craft book coming out soon. It’s called The Strategic Poet. I’m super blessed to have a poem in the tome (that rhyme is how you can tell I’m a poet hahahaha). The poem is called “After the Call from the Animal Welfare Office: A Triple Triolet,” and it’s a response to a horrific cat hoarding situation in Phoenix last year.

There are many more poetry helpers, too. The work that I am doing for the community is miniscule compared to that of others, but I am trying to keep #poetrycommunity at the forefront of my decisions as much as possible.

Let’s make it a great week ahead!

 

 

 

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Cats and Art Journals Help with Anxiety

All the babies in the yard are grown up, and every so often a hummingbird or dove swoops past me that looks a little familiar ;).

I am winding up the physical therapy now. I had two problems: rotator cuff calcification tendinitis and frozen shoulder. The PT has cured the frozen shoulder at least to 85% usage. The other will take much longer as I need to keep exercising. Eventually, the calcification is supposed to be absorbed by the body.

My brain is a little zapped right now. I’m concerned about health problems my daughter is having, and I am feeling stunned over the condo collapse in Florida. When I’m feeling like I am right now I am convinced that the greed and arrogance of humanity is going to take us down.

Also, I have claustrophobia so I spent days worrying about the people in the collapse.

Trying to cheer myself up, I made this page in my smallest journal. Fabrics from my childhood, and the button belonged to Grandma.

Notice that I’m making a little fun of myself, too, as 19-year-old me thought that big-a** hat looked stylish.

Putting the finishing touches on the first draft of the newly “remodelled” Scrap. 

I’m focused on being a good nursing home nurse for Pear Blossom. She’s doing well getting up and down from the couch with that one seat cushion removed. But sometimes she chooses to lie on the cool floor near her water bowl. Pee pads and water bowl are very near the couch for her convenience. She is still such a pleasure all the time. She’s my little nurse, too. She’s the one who got me through my one-year-plus foot surgery recovery and the Valley Fever. She used to take care of our last dog when he didn’t feel well. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the room and found her in Perry’s blue cube.

Pear wants you to have a wonderful week!

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Poetic Book Tours: Review of Sherry Quan Lee’s Septuagenarian by Luanne Castle

Today I am participating in Serena Agusto-Cox’s Poetic Book Tours hoopla for Sherry Quan Lee’s new poetry collection Septuagenarian. The title is not a word I am familiar with, but I looked it up and it means a person who is from 70-79 years old. How many times have you heard a collection “boast” that the poet is an older person, especially a woman? Not very darn often.

The summary provided by the poet gives a good idea of her focus in the book: “Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die is a memoir in poetic form. It is the author’s journey from being a mixed-race girl who passed for white to being a woman in her seventies who understands and accepts her complex intersectional identity; and no longer has to imagine love. It is a follow-up to the author’s previous memoir (prose), Love Imagined: a mixed-race memoir, A Minnesota Book Award finalist.”

In the case of Sherry Quan lee, the term “mixed-race” means that her father was Chinese and her mother was African-American or, more accurately, 3/4 AA and 1/4 white. Quan Lee’s mother preferred to pass as white, and she tried to get her children to do so as well. This wasn’t always easy because it created secrets and lies “Mama said, / cover yourself with lies“), such as seen in the poem “Silence”:

one of us had thick curly hair like Mother’s, one of us

had silky straight hair like Father’s; and, yes, one was

beauty and one shame/hotcombs and gas flames and

it was complicated pretending

Quan Lee’s father also wanted to be white, she asserts. Sadly, her father abandoned the family when Quan Lee was five years old.

One of the most poignant poems is “Mother’s and Mine,” which writes about bruising from 28 different perspectives. Tellingly, she writes in #19, “When I stopped wanting what I couldn’t have, I bruised less often.”

This book appears to have been written during the pandemic. It contains some pieces from previous work published by the poet, as well as new work responding to a “woke” perspective. (In fact, she uses that expression to describe how she has learned from living to be 72 in the poem “I Woke to This Place”). It’s sort of a cobbling together of her past with her now-experienced outlook.  I love that she included photographs, especially her adorable cover photos, as well as her birth certificate. It really adds to the authenticity by helping document what Sherry Quan Lee’s life has been like. Reading the experiences of a woman who has gone through life differently than myself was fascinating. Because the poetic style is more literal and less figurative than I usually choose to read, I read this book more as an engaging and inspirational memoir than a poetry collection. Sherry Quan Lee’s story needed to be documented and shared, and I am so blessed that I was asked to read her book.

 

Imprint:  Modern History Press
Author:  Sherry Quan Lee
ISBN-13:  PB 978-1-61599-568-4 / HC 978-1-61599-569-1 / eBook 978-1-61599-570-7
List Price:  PB $ 17.95 / HC $ 25.95 / eBook $ 4.95
Trim:  6 x 9 (100 pp)
Audience:  General Adult
Pub Date:  03/01/2021
BISAC:  Poetry/Women Authors
Poetry/American/Asian American
Social Science/Ethnic Studies/Asian American Studies

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Mama and Baby

Earlier last week, one of the hummingbird babies left the nest. That left her “brother” behind. For two, almost three, days, Mama continued to feed him. Then one day, he flew a bit falteringly and landed on an oleander branch near the nest. There he stayed for hours. Mama fed him where he was. She flew in place to show him how it’s done. She flew away and came back. But she was always right there in the vicinity, helping him transition to an adult hummer. In this video you can see them in action.

Pretty cool video, I think!

My DIL told me that one of their hummingbird babies flew before the other, and that before the “runt” could leave the nest, Mama disappeared. Seeing how devoted these birds are to their babies, I can only surmise that something tragic happened to the mother. But, guess what? The more advanced sibling began to feed the one left in the nest, and eventually that one joined his brother or sister flying across the sky.

For those of you who don’t have hummingbirds by you, remember that their nest is barely larger than a golf ball, so these birds are very small.

A Route of Evanescence

A Route of Evanescence,
With a revolving Wheel –
A Resonance of Emerald
A Rush of Cochineal –
And every Blossom on the Bush
Adjusts it’s tumbled Head –
The Mail from Tunis – probably,
An easy Morning’s Ride –
***
Make it a week to cherish! XO

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The Babies and the Stories

Hummingbirds make such wonderful mothers. Six years ago, the hummingbird who raised two nests right outside my door was a good example. When one of her babies turned out to find it more difficult to learn to fly, she spent hours one afternoon patiently teaching the little one. The green hummingbird raising her babies in our oleander right now is another good example. First, before she ever laid her eggs, she completely moved her nest from the windchime/mobile to the oleander tree when she realized the first place was not safe. Now we’ve noticed that because the sun beats relentlessly on the babies in the mornings, she sits on them for protection even though they are now big kids. We expect them to fly away any day now. Here she is shielding them from the sun.

Last week I told you that Kana was enjoying a manuscript box, but Tiger would lie down in it when Kana wasn’t there.

I think I forgot to mention that my daughter gave me Storyworth for Mother’s Day. I had never heard of it before. Every week for a year I get a story prompt mailed to me. The idea is these stories are all about my life. As soon as I email one back, my kids get the story dumped in their inboxes. I am allowed to include photos if I like. And if I hit send and regret something I can easily edit it. At the end of the year, the kids will get books of “the story of my life.” Why is this different from creative nonfiction and memoir writing? These stories are geared for my kids and (hopefully someday) their kids. Some of the stories are already part of family legend, but now they will be written down in a permanent form. If I don’t like a particular prompt, I can change it out, but so far each one (I’ve done four) have been fruitful lines of enquiry ;). I’ve written about my first memory, most memorable birthday, favorite trip, and a time when I was brave. I’m not saying I wouldn’t share any of these on this blog, but not today, folks.

It’s a genius idea that I wish I had thought of before these people did hah. The reason it’s genius is that it’s got to be a money maker as it’s pricey. But I kind of think it’s worth it because who does this anyway? And keeps it up for a year? You could do this completely on your own. But will your loved ones keep writing those stories every week? They will if they know you paid for the subscription!

Make it a fine week!!!!

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My Past Week Minus Work and Physical Therapy

Let me say this up front: have a thoughtful Memorial Day. You might want to read posts from blogger Joy Neal Kidney who writes about her grandparents who lost three  beloved sons during WWII. As Joy reminded on Instagram the other day, Memorial Day is to honor and remember those who died serving the United States. Veteran’s Day is for those who served and came home.  We do tend to blur this distinction. Since so many who die in battle are young, they often leave no children behind. In part for this reason, more of us have veterans in our families or are veterans ourselves, and it is left to nieces and nephews to mourn the fallen family member. In my own family, only one person died during war for the United States (my ancestors arrived in the 1800s, so it’s possible that some siblings of my ancestors perished in war for their countries. This young man was the younger and newly arrived from the Netherlands brother of my great-grandmother’s brother-in-law. That doesn’t sound like a close relation, but our family was small and close and I knew Aunt Jen very well until she passed away when I was twelve. After being in the United States for less than a year, Gerrit Leeuwenhoek volunteered for this country in the Spanish-American war and was shipped to Cuba where he died of malaria. This letter was sent to Uncle Lou and Aunt Jen.

Later, Uncle Lou had Gerrit’s remains moved to the cemetery in Kalamazoo.

***

The dove kids are thriving. We see them hanging out on the railing near the plant that held their nest.

The hummingbird mama is doing well taking care of her twins. She feeds them regularly. Here she is sitting on them.

May is when the saguaros blossom. This year has been a little bit different, though, because they are blossoming more generously. Usually they bloom off the “top of their heads.” But this year the flowers trail down the sides as if there are so many they are spilling over. Nobody seems to know why, though they have made guesses. The gardener says it’s because we didn’t have much rain this year. Click on the image and you can see the flowers growing out of the sides of the tree.

I’ve been reading a novel manuscript, and Kana has been spending her time in the manuscript box, even as it gets filled up with the just-read pages.

My sweet Pear (the 21-year-old) seemed to be unwell, but now I think that she was having trouble getting up and down from the couch–and that in the early morning hours Perry was traumatizing her with his attention. I tried putting things in front of the couch so that she would have a “stairs” of sorts, but she is too fragile to learn something like that at this point. Finally, I had an epiphany. I needed to subtract from the couch instead of adding to it. I took out one of the seat cushions. Now she can step down to the couch without the cushion and then on to the floor. And Perry is now locked in our bedroom at night. What is surprising is that he’s being so good although he can’t roam the house.

Sorry for annoying you with some of my journal pages, but I am enjoying it so much and you can always skip :).

This one is in a very small book. The quote is from a poem called “Sisters” by James Lineberger.

And this one is all about the memories. 

I’m moving forward on the memoir, and I would definitely call it a hybrid at this point. I hope a few people like it when I’m done because I feel better writing this version than any of the previous 18 versions. (No, not kidding). I really hope it works this time. Needless to say.

I’m not sending too much out right now, but just thought I’d let you know I have a new poetry book in the works!!! (Shhh) Yeah, but publication date will be in 2022. That sounds so far away! More info to come.

Make a happy week!

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My Zoo

My daughter shot new headshots for me the other day. Perry loves his attention so he climbed into my arms and posed. This was complete serendipity, but I might use it for my blog and social media image.  Do you like it?

After maneuvering his way into this photo, he wanted his own headshot.

 

A couple of days ago a new bobcat walked through my neighborhood. This one was skinny with a curly tail. I fear there are too many bobcats in one territory now. One day a friend on Instagram referred to all the wildlife here as my “zoo.” Haha, it feels that way sometimes.

The hummingbird eggs have hatched, and Mama is busy feeding them. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo, but I didn’t want to spook the little mother.

On Saturday we had dove baby drama here.  We had some advice from a volunteer at Liberty Wildlife, the rescue that handled the red-tailed hawk rescue last year. I also learned some additional mourning dove info on Google. For instance, did you know that very often the mother and father both take turns sitting on mourning dove nests? Or if the mother does a lot of it, the father will step in, too? This is what happened. The gardener found a dead mourning dove by our glass door in the morning. Then he realized there was a nest in the hanging pot, and it had two big babies inside. We had a wedding to go to so we were getting stressed by trying to figure out if they were still being fed or not. If the mother was killed, would the father feed them? A few hours later we noticed a small adult or nearly adult bird sitting on the edge of the pot, next to the babies. She was there a couple of times when we looked, but not always. Was this their mother? Were they too big for her to fit on the nest? Was it their father who was killed? We planned to bring the babies to Liberty Wildlife next morning if it looked like they weren’t being fed.

Next morning the nest was empty. The gardener saw one of the babies down in the wash, fine so far. Mourning dove babies are still watched over and fed by parents for a week or two after the babies leave the nest. We have to hope they are being fed as I don’t want to rip them away from a parent that is still around.

This art journal page was fun to make. My art journal pages, like those of a lot of people, are not planned out. I just start putting stuff on the paper and see where it will take me. This time it took me to Dick and Jane and their “lunar understanding.”

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Neighborhood Visitor

I have this great photo to share with you. I did not take it, but it is one of the bobcats from my neighborhood. My neighbor found the animal resting in his yard, so he snapped this image. What luck! And what gorgeous animals the bobcats are.

This poem was in Poem-a-Day this morning coincidentally.

The Waiting

Jane Wong

I was waiting for something
to arrive. I didn’t know what.
Something buoyed, something
sun knocked. I placed my palms
up, little pads of butter, expecting.
All day, nothing. Longer than
that. My hair grew, fell out,
grew. Outside my window, I felt
the flick of a tail in September
wind. A bobcat sauntered across
the grass before me, the black tip
of its tail a pencil I’d like to sharpen.
I immediately hushed, crouched,
became a crumpled shock of
joy to see something this wild,
not myself. It turned to look
at me, its body muscular in
the turning. In its mouth was
the tail of a mouse drained of
blood, dangling diorama of death.
Sharp eyes looking at me and then,
not. Its lack of fear, its slow stroll
across the stream’s bridge, fur
lacquering its teeth. Sometimes
what comes to us, we never called
for. How long had I been crouched
like that? I stood up, blood rush
trumpeting. My arms wrapped
themselves around myself, lifted.
It was as if a bank vault had
opened and I was just standing
there, stealing nothing.

Copyright © 2021 by Jane Wong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 17, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Make it a great week!

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May Flowers

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