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Advice from Pauline

Beginning perhaps on Friday I developed a strong urge not to blog today. Monday is usually my day, but Monday had no appeal any longer. Suddenly, I didn’t feel as if I had anything to say. The news had wrung me dry.

Anything that crossed my mind seemed as if it had already been said in a way that I would never be able to muster with my brain fried, diced, and served.

Then Pauline responded to my comment on her blog The Contented Crafter.

I was looking at a post from you on IG [Instagram] about making elderberry syrup and my phone rang – and I never got back to it. I know you have a very different governmental system to ours and it does sound very hard for all my friends there. Here we have a woman in charge and it’s showing. People and health first. We know it will be a struggle later on when the virus has been held in check, but personally I hope it means we will change our ways of living, our expectations, our emissions, our stuff, our disinterest in those who have less, the generally disadvantaged, the third world countries, the dispossessed peoples of the world. I hope we will plant more trees, use no plastics, clean the oceans and care for our animals better. I hope there will be a new normal and we will embrace the positive in that – whatever it is. In the meantime we will make tasty goodies in our kitchens, from fruits and vegetables grown in our own gardens, to help our own wellbeing – and that of our pets. We will laugh at ourselves and laugh with each other and this will raise our immunity levels. We will strive every day to look for the good things that are being done and enacted and shared – lets walk through this together and share and support and make the world a smaller, friendlier, safer place for a while. I think this will make a great deal of difference. Thank you for coming over Luanne, all the way from Phoenix too – which sounds so exotic to me 🙂 I hope the Gardener is well and all the kitties too. Keep posting – just about what you are making and how you are feeling and what made you happy and laugh, or sad and cry today….. and I will too. xoxo

You see what I mean about somebody else saying it better than I could do. Notice what she wrote at the end: Keep posting–just about what you are making and how you are feeling and what made you happy and laugh, or sad and cry today. WOWSA!!! And she will, too :).

So that is what I am writing about today.

I did make elderberry syrup to boost the immune system of the gardener, the daughter, the future SIL, and myself.

I don’t spend a lot of time or money on “supplements” and other immune boosters or cures, as a rule. Well, not a rule. Haha. When I try something I end up using it once or twice and then it sits in the cupboard. And I don’t usually make it myself. But this time it seemed important to make it myself. That way I know all the ingredients that go into it. It smells quite medicinal when it’s cooking, but the taste was quite good. I used cinnamon and ginger, but I did not use cloves as I am not very fond of cloves.

I felt as if I was channeling my women ancestors while I made the syrup. Caring for my family with my own hands, putting love into the medicine along with the honey.

What else did I make? I made chicken breasts with the lemons from my friend’s tree and the rosemary from my bush. I cooked sauerkraut and, instead of throwing away the juice as usual, we drank it. The gardener’s uncle used to drink sauerkraut juice every day and swore by it as a health drink. It also is supposed to be an immune booster. I admit the cooking of the sauerkraut is just because I love it that way: with natural sugar, paprika, pepper.

 

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I wish I could say that I made some more pages for my fabric Scrap scrapbook, but although I meant to, time got away from me. Trust me, I NEVER don’t have anything to do. I’ve added sitting out in the sun on every day with sun. It’s helpful emotionally and maybe physically. I wrote another poem this week, but it stinks. I made a little herb garden so that I can have fresh herbs without having to run to the store.

I am learning to need a little less, use a little more of everything, and put more thought into all I do.

What made me happy and/or laugh?

My cats, of course. Perry is especially cuddly lately, and I think he senses my anxiety. Pear and Tiger wants to be with me all the time. The other three are their own usual selves. At least I hope they are. I hope they don’t have hidden anxiety. They all give me lots of love and security, and occasionally, make me laugh pretty hard.

My daughter started an Instagram account for her puppy. You can see Riley at rileysblackbook. Now I get a little dose of Riley every day, although I can’t go over to their place in actuality.

Some of the memes and videos on Facebook that friends share make me happy or laugh. The bunny who wants to be a herding dog was one of my favorites this week. See it here: Bunny has been watching the dog herd

Restarting my “fill in the gaps” project for genealogy that I post over at The Family Kalamazoo blog. It forces me to focus, but I don’t have to be as creative as when writing a poem. And these days, I really want to get a rudimentary structure of family history done and sent digitally to all the younger family members. Just in case.

What makes me sad is watching young people crowding the beaches and parks, sassing the police who try to move them along, and putting themselves and everyone in danger. What makes me sad is that my mom lives alone and has to isolate and to keep from going crazy she still socializes with 3 of her neighbors. Who can blame her?

What makes me sad is watching videos from Italy about the patients and healthcare workers. The doctors who came out of retirement to die at the hands of Covid-19.

But the videos of all the music coming from the people make me teary in a bittersweet way.

Another bittersweet for me has to do with the shelter animals. Mostly, I am terrified for the animals as sad reports come in about people abandoning or euthanizing animals out of ignorance. The shelters had to cancel all their fundraisers. And the staff and volunteers have to risk their own lives to work at the shelters, taking care of the animals. There was a bonded pair of senior kitties I REALLY wanted to foster. But it turns out it wasn’t right for us right now. So instead I took on another task for the shelter. I am now “womanning” their Twitter account. So come follow along at Home Fur Good.

How do YOU feel? What makes you happy and sad these days?

Stay safe and keep growing. That’s my new motto.

 

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Artist’s Way in the Time of Coronavirus

I didn’t really think I’d still be writing about Covid-19 or coronavirus this week. Trying not to think ahead to next week.

Have you been hearing about/seeing the best and worst in people this past week? So many stories about TP being stolen out of grocery carts, etc. But on NextDoor app, there are so many kind people offering to pick up meds and groceries for seniors and people with health issues–or even just for people afraid to go into the stores.

I picked up stuff for my kids and a friend. Then on a family chat when I joked about only have one bag of BBQ Lays and not much Tito’s in the bottle, my daughter and her fiance delivered those as a gift to me (they were at the grocery store where they found no potatoes, no onions, no eggs, and almost no meat).

My friend knew we couldn’t get eggs, so she bought eggs for me and for my daughter at Costco. When we picked it up, she had a bag of lemons from her tree for us, but wouldn’t come out the door to get the egg money, so I had to put it in the doormat. LOL

Times have not gotten bad yet. Just annoying.

I’ll move on to other topics, but it’s kind of hard to keep the Virus from intruding.

Remember when I started The Artist’s Way program? I read the book, worked Morning Pages, and Artist Dates. I also joined an in-person group. By the way, I found a little interview with Julia Cameron (the book author and creator of the program) on her blog. An Interview with Julia Cameron

Without going into the whole story of what has gone on for me with the program, I’d like to mention a few points that arise from where I’m “at” right now.

  • Morning pages are being used for what food we are eating for dinner based on what we have in the house and so that we don’t use up all the good stuff first.
  • Artist Dates are the things I can do from home: movies, books, crafts, etc.
  • I just gave my regrets for the in-person meeting this month.
  • How great to have more time to write and craft. Yes, my head is spinning in every direction. My focus is awful. BUT, if I can’t pull it together to write something, how could I withstand an ACTUAL problem? I have written two poems so far.

I am lucky in that I have six cats at home. But it does mean I’ve had to make sure I have enough cat food and litter to last two weeks. The kitties don’t know why Mom and Dad are home more, but they sure do like it–especially after we left them for so long while we were in Costa Rica.

Stay safe everyone. If you are lucky enough to work from home as I am, I hope you can squeeze in more of what you want to do in place of your commute time!

HUGS AND STAY SAFE

P.S. The photo was taken by the gardener (hence, the finger in the left side of the image LOL) at a festival we drove through in a small town in Costa Rica. Needless to say, festivals are now off-limits to all of us.

 

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Coronabub

Warning: crabby writer here.

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There are so many wonderful examples to the contrary. But they remain the minority.

What am I talking about?

Trustworthiness in humans. The coronabub (coronavirus hubbub) has made this clear to me. First there are the accounts you hear on TV and read online. Some experts say just go about your business, but wash your hands  a lot. Other reports say that those 60+ and/or with compromised immune systems (also heart or lung disease, etc.) should stay in their own homes and eschew even family events. Still other reports predict gloom and doom.

Because I am in the 60+ group and have had some lung issues in the past as an adult (also as a kid I was a magnet for every respiratory disease around), I am trying to pretend I am a crocodile that people want to stay away from (see photo below). I plan to be careful when I am out. But other people are not that careful. They still go to events where hundreds or thousands of people are attending. Even my own husband is not that careful when it comes to sanitizing and still doesn’t understand the concept of soap as necessity. He believes that big companies sold us on the idea of soap for them to reap the profits. So how does me being careful keep me safe if others I come in contact with are not careful?

The gardener calls me Howey Anne, after Howard Hughes and his infamous germaphobia. I would say that is a little extreme because I am not that paranoid. You have to consider the source. Person who thinks soap is unimportant thinks I am a germaphobe. Get it?

But I don’t like germs. I blame Oprah for an episode she filmed a long time ago about the germs in hotel rooms and your own shower head. ICK.

This coronavirus thing is causing me a lot of anxiety. I suppose it isn’t mentally healthy for me to be trying to keep my hands away from my face (an impossible task) and to be thinking about germs all the time.

I offer no comfort. Sorry if that’s what you need right now.

The gardener and I just got back from Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The first night we were there, the maid service left a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer in my room. I clung to it for the rest of the trip as if it were the last canteen of water in an unpopulated Sahara in a 1930s movie. It allowed me to fly home through two airplanes and four airports.

The trip was not the best, to tell you the truth. Coronavirus was only part of it. The worst was that the resort had accidentally cancelled our reservation back in September, but our travel agent never knew it. I am too tired from thinking about germs to tell you much about the trip, but the animals were fabulous, the Costa Ricans were nice, and the rest of it was not so great.

Then there was the driver who tried to scam us to the tune of $149 in Houston, the Houston hotel whose shuttle was out of commission but they neglected to tell us, and the bank that ripped our mortgage check and sent it back saying it was “torn in the mail” (LIE), thus dinging our credit. I mean, I could probably come up with a really long list like this. People just suck sometimes.

There are all the sad stories I read on Facebook about animals abandoned, neglected, and abused by humans. It never gets better.

The person who knowingly took his/her coronavirus ass to an event with hundreds of people.

I heard some people are stealing masks from hospitals. WTF!

Who would ever trust a human?

But without trust, where are we? We cannot live alone. It is impossible to be completely self-sufficient. What we do impacts others as well as ourselves. We can’t make it different. But we can try to do our best. In the worst of times, we need to be the best we can be.

Don’t brazen it out and go to major events and then drag your germs to other, more vulnerable people. Imagine being stuck in a nursing home right now–you can’t leave, but once coronavirus enters your facility, you would feel targeted. So be kind and think of other people.

OK, pretty sure my readers didn’t need that, but you might want to remind others!

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As far as photos of Costa Rica go, I have started (slowly) posting some on my Instagram account: catpoems.  Check them out if you’re interested!

Also, University of Chicago-based Memoryhouse Magazine has published my Whitman tribute poem, “Out of the Cradle.” It refers to “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” and the last two words are used as the initial letters for the lines of the poem. This issue, called “Rattle,” is a good one. You can find it here.

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I hope when I check back in here next Monday for my next post, the coronabub has burst, and all is back to normal.

Crocodile on the Palo Verde River, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

 

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Poem up at Entropy: Lots of Birds Going On

I am tickled that my poem “Noah and the Middle School Marching Band” has been published by the wonderful journal Entropy for their BIRDS series, and it’s accompanied by art by my friend Mary Stebbins Taitt, artist and naturalist. Mary and I met through Cowbird, a site where we both used to publish stories.

Here is a sample from the poem:

Look at them come. Godwits

and bushtits, catbirds and black-

crested titmice, I tickle their feet​

to move them along a little faster.​

Click the poem title to read the poem and see the accompanying art: NOAH AND THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MARCHING BAND

When I asked Mary if she would like to have one of her pieces accompany my poem, I was amazed at how many birds she had worked on.

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Noah is my favorite Bible character.

“Noah and the Dove” by Judith Klausner

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MY GOODREADS REVIEW OF A NEW POETRY COLLECTION, Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful by Matthew Lippman:

I am writing my feelings and thoughts about Lippman’s new collection while they are still fresh, but when I don’t have time to write a thorough review that does it justice. This is a mesmerizing (and sadly) beautiful book. These poems are the epitome of Lippman’s big-hearted writing. I could imagine him with his big aching heart carried outside his body while he wrote these poems. Nobody creates FEELING from a poem like he does. Feelings of love and sadness are all intertwined here. You can’t have love without sadness and you can’t have sadness without love. Read this book, everyone! This is a book that can save us from our over-thinking and our despair.

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I will be taking a blog break for a week or so (therefore, I closed comments here). See you when I return and stay safe, healthy, and calm in the meantime!

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Cinthia Ritchie’s Malnourished is a Tour de Force

Cinthia Ritchie, BRAG your book!  Start posting reviews or parts of reviews of your new memoir Malnourished on your blog cinthiaritchie.com because after I wrote mine I went on Amazon and saw some great reviews over there.

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Take a look at Cinthia’s book by clicking the image. It will take you to where you can purchase the book on Amazon AND where you can read reviews. This book is fabulous. It’s the kind of book that, if you’re a writer, makes you jealous because she gets it so right, word by word, white space by white space, chapter by chapter. Malnourished is a TOUR DE FORCE. No kidding.

I wrote a review that I will post on Amazon and Goodreads. It doesn’t do the book justice AT ALL. if you want to read a better review, read Carla McGill’s over on Amazon.

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Cinthia Ritchie’s memoir Malnourished is a strange and beautiful trek into the heart of a family. Ritchie has three sisters, and all four girls/women have been tragically affected by their upbringing in a home with a predatory stepfather, a mother who will not see the truth, and a deceased father.

While Ritchie’s sister’s death from anorexia is the catalyst for the book, the subject is Ritchie’s survival story. She shares how she and her sister Deena grew up together, how their relationship expanded and contracted over time, how she and Deena diverged in their responses to life, and where they were similar. While Ritchie claims never to have been an anorexic, she has a complicated relationship with food. Ritchie has exhibited starvation and other dangerous symptoms of emotional distress and control over her body. In this memoir, Ritchie manages to open up a space where we can think, discuss, soul-search human relationships with food as emotionally-charged metaphor and how that power plays out on our bodies.

Reading this story gave me insight into how personalities and desires are shaped by experience. For example, Ritchie is a serious runner who craves being outdoors. By reading Malnourished, I was able to feel what it would be like to need to run, to sleep outside under the stars. A small bedroom offers no place for a child to run from a menace that lurks inside the house, one which makes the walls complicit with the stepfather.

What I’ve written here might sound like Ritchie explains all this in the book. While she does reflect on her experiences, her gorgeous, lyrical writing does not “tell” the reader, so much as allow the reader into her world to figure things out for herself. Most importantly, Ritchie’s generosity in baring herself for scrutiny and understanding is such a gift to every reader.

Malnourished is not a comfortable read. It’s a work of art that nudges readers from our comfortable seats, from the comforting ways our minds purposefully arrange our interior landscapes. The beauty of the way Ritchie arranges her words will keep you going even through the darkest passages.

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Felix still has an upper respiratory infection. The vet says that it can last three weeks. Because he has to stay in the bedroom all this time (isolation), I have a lot of anxiety about him being lonely. Poor baby. Please send him healing vibes so he gets well soon and can be let out of the bedroom!

I started experimenting with writing weird poems about everyday subjects and objects, inspired by reading Matthew Lippman’s new poetry collection Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful. I’m not even done reading it yet!

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Poem Up at Gingerbread House Literary Magazine

Founder and co-editor Christine Butterworth-McDermott really knows her way around a fairy tale. She understands their flexibility, responsibilities, and opportunities. So it was thrilling that she took one of my Red Riding Hood poems for the new issue of Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. 

You can read it here and see the beautiful artwork that was paired with the poem: Interrogation

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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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Poetry of Loss

The Plath Poetry Project is one of the most unique poetry projects around. The central event involves writing poems that are inspired by Plath poetry. The poems are accompanied by explanations of  the inspiration. PPP published a poem I wrote once before, and now they have published one I wrote based on Plath’s “For a Fatherless Son.”

by Sylvia Plath

You will be aware of an absence, presently,
Growing beside you, like a tree,
A death tree, color gone, an Australian gum tree —-
Balding, gelded by lightning—an illusion,
And a sky like a pig’s backside, an utter lack of attention.
But right now you are dumb.
And I love your stupidity,
The blind mirror of it. I look in
And find no face but my own, and you think that’s funny.
It is good for me
To have you grab my nose, a ladder rung.
One day you may touch what’s wrong —-
The small skulls, the smashed blue hills, the godawful hush.
Till then your smiles are found money.

 

My poem is “For an Adopted Child,” and if you read the poem and the explanation you will see how I came to write a darker poem about adoption.

For An Adopted Child

My children were adopted by the gardener and me as babies. My brother was also adopted by my parents as a baby. Although my kids are vocal about the positive side of adoption, that does not mean that they haven’t been scarred by the process of adoption. Adoptees aren’t born when they join their adoptive families. They have lives before that–perhaps a week, three months, or six years. They know loss before most other people. In the case of my kids, they are transracial adoptees, so that brings some more baggage along with it.

We’ve come a long way from the days when even educated people told adoptees they are lucky they were adopted, but there are still plenty of unenlightened people out there saying stupid stuff, never fear. It’s not lucky to lose your birth family, no matter what the circumstances. It’s not lucky to know loss so young.

I hope you appreciate “For an Adopted Child”; it’s one of my favorites.

 

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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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