Tag Archives: blogging

Pliers Lined Up by Size

My son has a cat stroller he uses to take his cats for walks. It was quite pricey, so although he encouraged me to get one I didn’t for over a year. But then I saw one at 1/3 the price online, so I ordered it. It arrived in great need of “putting together.”

I left it lying on the living room floor and every time the gardener asked me why I hadn’t put it together yet, I explained how busy I am. (I am busy; that’s not a lie).

Finally, he started putting it together himself.  [Big winky face]

But the instructions were not correct and the gardener is not a patient person. I could hear him complaining to beat the band, so I offered to help. He asked me to get a long skinny screwdriver and a pliers with a regular style jaw in a medium size. When he started to explain a little more, I had to remind him: “I’m my father’s daughter, remember? I was raised alongside Dad’s workbench.”

My father had a workshop in our basement, and when I was younger than six I could often be found at his feet as he toiled at his building, fixing, creating. I loved the vise, the lathe, and all the different tools lined up by order of size on the pegboard over the workbench.

When I was six, my father built a bomb shelter out of his workshop–and moved all his stuff out to the garage. This “poem start” (not a completed poem, but a first draft) documents that first workshop and its disappearance.

Winter

 

A small, square space at the bottom of the steps.

One casement window ajar

just below

the ceiling hinting

at the black and unknown winter.

 

The man working, a little girl,

face like a cup,

watching his arms crank

the vise handle,

tighten the grip

like Superman.

 

False walls invoke a room from

the open basement.  The workbench

so like that of the elves,

its thick wooden surface scarred

slick by hammer blows.

 

He presides over the saw

with precision, aiming

for the pencil line, sawdust

falling away on each side

like the snow from a plow.

 

A rack of baby food jars

containing nails and screws

revolves overhead, and at the back

of the planked surface families

of pliers and screwdrivers line up

by size like Goldilocks’ bears.

 

The girl sits behind him

the chilled concrete twanging

her backside through her thin

pajamas.  She pounds the

wooden posts in her little workbench

all the way through and then

flips it and pounds them back again.

 

Everything in its place.

His sleeping bag and snowshoes

from the war

hang from the rafters.  The caricature

of the man pinning diapers on her,

her head bald except for

two hairs sprouting heroically

as Tweety Bird.

 

He carries the contents she thinks

are the room

up the stairs and out to the garage.

The claw and the ball hammers, all

the members of the pliers and screwdriver

families, the cardboard box

of sandpaper.  Sleeping bag and painting.

 

After much labor slabbing mortar,

constructing dual-layer cinder block

walls, the man rests

his chin on the ladder rung, surveys

 

a small, square space at the bottom of the steps,

dark and cold.

 

On the way out, he slaps

a fallout shelter decal

on the door he has just hung.

 

The man toils over his bench in the garage now.

She’s not allowed.

The space heater is too dangerous.

For a couple of years I couldn’t follow my father into the workshop the same way. The coziness and security were gone. But then we moved when I was eight and he created another wonderful workshop in the basement.  He did so everywhere he ever lived.

Designing the Butterflies are Free set in Dad’s workshop–11th grade

When my father was dying he gave me a beautiful set of wrenches to take home. As I tried to get through security at the airport, TSA took the wrench set from me. I never saw it again.

After Dad’s funeral, family members and friends began plundering his workshop of its tools and gadgets.

What place reminds you of your father or mother? My grandmother’s kitchen reminds me of her, and my other grandmother’s sewing room expresses her spirit. My grandfather’s place was his vegetable garden.

###

For the rest of the summer, I plan to blog once a week instead of twice. I’m behind in my conversations with y’all and want to catch up! I’ve got some new eye problems, so I’m trying not to spend as much time on the computer, writing and reading, and then, after all, it is really really hot here.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Blogging, Family history, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Writing

The Staircase #liminality

This week’s liminal photo has a name. Haha, pretentious, considering the quality of my photography? Much. But it still has a name: “Stairway to Heaven.”

I like this photo because a perfectly liminal space is that between life and death, earth and heaven.

Have you been watching for #liminality? What have you found?

Here is a poem by H.D. that I thought of because of the record heat wave in Arizona this week. Hilda Doolittle is a poet whose poems I worked with for my dissertation. Ultimately, I dropped her as one of my subjects, choosing to focus on Jorie Graham, Sylvia Plath, Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich, and Linda Hogan, for the most part.  Her work was so precise and crystalline and so focused on her classical allusions, that it wasn’t warm enough for me (sorry for the pun). But this poem perfectly captures the heavy hot air. The air that makes it difficult for the lungs to expand.

Heat

H. D., 18861961

O wind, rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air--
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat--
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.







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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Blogging, Liminality, Writing

Liminality and the Lake

Last week I posted about liminality, defined as a space between or on/in a sensory threshold. A transitional state. You can read more about it here.

When I traveled to my home state in October 2014, I had not visited Michigan for quite some time, and it was a very intense, emotional  trip for me. Although I’d spent a lot of time with my parents out west, I hadn’t been to see them on the land where I grew up.

There is a way that I could think of that visit as a liminal space because it was the threshold that led into my father’s illness and eventual death in May 2015. It was the last time I saw my father before his illnesses, although he might have already been sick at the time–and nobody realized it. Our relationship began to change after this trip.

I found a photo from that visit that I find to be symbolic of liminality: the dock at my parents’ home. The dock is a passageway between land and water. If you walk off the dock into the water, you had better know how to swim or be wearing a life jacket.

I wasn’t prepared for walking off the dock that fall, but luckily I had had swimming lessons as a kid.

By the way, that wire across the top of the photo? I thought about cropping it out, but it seems important somehow.

Have you found any liminal spaces?

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Filed under Blogging, Family history, Lifestyle, Liminality, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

In the Between

I’ve always had a thing for liminality. Yup, liminality. Doesn’t it feel good on your tongue? According to Merriam-Webster (remember her?):

Definition of liminal

  1. 1:  of or relating to a sensory threshold

  2. 2:  barely perceptible

  3. 3:  of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition :  in-between, transitional<in the liminal state between life and death — Deborah Jowitt>

I love that in between space there. You know, anywhere. Passageways like cupboards and rabbit holes and wardrobes.  The place of process, like focusing on the process of art instead of the finished product. The place of change where you are different at one end than you were at the other.

I thought I’d let my camera start searching for some of those liminal spaces. If you find any, please share!!!

This one is at the Virginia Dare office and shopping center in Rancho Cucamonga, California.

On Monday I have such a deal coming for you! Watch for it!

In the meantime, life with Slupe is sweet.

 

Did you think I’ve forgotten about Kana and Tiger (and Pear and Felix)? Nope. I think I have mentioned that Tiger has a little window seat that is all hers. It’s her happy place. I put an X of double faced tape so that Kana can’t lie there and annoy her. She has an ice cube tray with toys so that I can hide treats under the toys. And I placed a mini litter box behind my antique trunk in case Kana blocks her from the ones in the laundry room. Lots of quail and bunnies and lizards for Tiger to watch.

Tiger has a little squeak like a mouse and runs from Kana which prompts Kana to chase her. Sigh. I guess it’s all that liminal space ;).

 

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What Are Your Writing Customs?

Some of you probably remember a post by my friend poet and writer Carla McGill last year called “Poetry, Loss, and Grieving.” It’s a beautiful essay and has had a lot of readers.

Carla just started her own WordPress blog! Please go visit and welcome her. Blogging is all new to her, especially the technology, so she can use a lot of support. Also, you’re going to love her blog. It’s about writing and called Writing Customs. Be one of her first blog followers! And follow her on Twitter, too, here. You will love Carla’s posts (I promise). She’s so thoughtful and insightful and a wonderful writer and person.

I’m still trying to catch up with work and visiting with my mother, so don’t think I’m off writing a novel or something hahahahahaha. I hope to be back Monday.

Go tell Carla what YOUR writing customs are!

P.S. This is a chandelier at the Wrigley Mansion I visited with my mother and my husband. It’s Waterford crystal and Arizona amethysts!

 

 

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My Angel Survived the Ball Breaking and Other Miscellany

Today is a grab bag post. Know that this mirrors my mind right now–an assortment of miscellany.

I have both poetry and prose writing projects in the works, a post to write about Sheila Morris’ new book The Short Side of Time, a book review to write for Adrienne Morris (loved The House on Tenafly Road) for Goodreads and Amazonand Mom arrived this weekend. She’ll be here in Arizona for the next two months, trying to catch some sun rays. Her knee is in a brace, as it’s bothering her lately, but it’s so nice to have her here. The kitties at the shelter need lots of help, and Kana and Tiger still don’t get along (sigh). If only Tiger realized that she only has to make an assertive move toward Kana and she would earn some respect. Or not.

And then it’s time to start pulling everything together for the TAXMAN (how come it’s never the TAXWOMAN?) for our businesses and personal. So much tedious work on top of regular work. If you can’t tell, I resent this extra burden.

I had a flash fiction piece accepted by Story Shack. They will assign an illustrator to illustrate the story, a feature I love about their magazine.

Remember those German glass ornaments I keep in my antique trunk? Did I mention that daughter’s boyfriend accidentally broke one last year? It was a silver ball that was open on one side (like a little diorama) with an angel in the snow. The ball broke away, and all that was left was the angel standing on a glass shard. I just found it in a drawer where I tucked it because I couldn’t bear to throw it away. I hope I’m not going to turn into a hoarder, but she doesn’t seem like something I can throw away as if she were trash.

Maybe I’ll keep her to stand guard over 2016.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Blogging, Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Fiction, Lifestyle, Writing

Off Having Fun

Off doing my fun thing . . . .

“The world’s a puzzle; no need to make sense out of it.”

SOCRATES

If you like, you can puzzle over just what my fun thing is. Hahaha.

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Loves and Hates, But No List

A few people have asked me if I’m planning to do a 10 things I love/ 10 things I hate post. As I begin writing this post, I have no idea. It seems daunting to me to narrow in on 10 of each. And so many bloggers described some of my own loves and hates so beautifully.

How do I decide if I want to use foods or actions or sensory moments? And how many of each–in what proportion? For each one I write I’d be forgetting 10 (or 100) others that I might love more. Or hate more.

Then there is the notion of starting with loves and endings with hates. I don’t want to leave you with the negative. So I think I’d start with what I hate just so that I can end with what I love. But if I do that, readers might get saddened or burned out too quickly and not read far enough to get to the loves!

Probably the biggest thing holding me back is that it’s so tempting to go with the “small” or “local.” The pet peeves. The comfort foods. But what about world peace? An end to all war, to poverty, to famine?

Ay Yi Yi! Oy! Holy crap!

So I’ll just sprinkle a few out here that come to my mind at this instant.

I hate that a lady dumped her kitty at the no-kill shelter I volunteer at because she was moving in with her son. For months, the stressed out cat won’t leave the door of the cat room. We’ve set up her bed, food, and water on a stand next to the door so she can live there. When other cats jump up on the stand, she hisses until they jump back down. Last week hubby and I discovered the poor kitty is THIRTEEN YEARS OLD. She still thinks her “Mom” is coming back for her, but her dear mother hasn’t even checked on her. Abby’s story isn’t that unusual, but for Abby it’s her whole life that’s at stake. And her life is miserable. If my oldest cat wasn’t in stage 4 kidney failure (with diabetes and a bad heart) I would persuade hubby that she’s our next rescue, but it’s not possible right now. And so Abby waits. At the door. For her missing mother.

See what I mean? You want to read 10 of those? Heartbreaking.

I love that I get to work at the shelter, cleaning, scooping, feeding, reading to, and loving cats in need. I love their sweet open hearts. And I love how my heart has swelled to a larger size so that it encompasses as many cats as necessary.  The heart is an organ of infinite size in a finite body.

Randomly, I also love the old pop song that is known in the U.S. as “Sukiyaki” and sung by Japanese singer Kyu Sakamoto. There is no music more beautiful than this song.

After I listen to the song 9 or 10 times, hubby shrieks (yes, shrieks) at me to turn it off.  I never get tired of it. There are other versions, such as by A Taste of Honey, but Sakamoto’s is my favorite. He’s got a gorgeous crooner voice.

I also love pan fried zucchini, fresh raspberries, the smell of a rain-soaked landscape. But those aren’t as important as my family, my cats, my books, and my memories.

How do you approach the loves and hates list? Feel free to post a link to your love/hate post in the comments!

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Filed under Blogging, Cats and Other Animals, Inspiration, Memoir, Writing

A Hummingbird Returns to the Nest

A little update on the hummingbird situation. A hummingbird has been sleeping in the nest on and off. I don’t know if it’s Mama or one of the youngsters. When we first noticed it, hubby got out the ladder and checked–no eggs. Since the bird has been in the nest for several hours now, I’m wondering if she did manage to lay more eggs. I guess we will eventually find out.

I’m taking a blog break for a week or so.

I hope your spring is magical. Until we meet again . . . .

***

I have a DOLL GOD Giveaway going on at Goodreads right now. Hop on over there and sign up if you want to win a free copy!

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR A FREE COPY OF DOLL GOD

 

 

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Read All About It Here: The Work-in-Progress Blog Tour Stop

UPDATE:  just wanted to add in here that a new review is up for Doll God.  Reviewer Gautami says “A few poems also comment on the scientific reality of life, yet the metaphysical and spirituality is never far away.” I love that she noticed that as that is never far from my mind when I write a poem.

Thanks to Sherrey Meyer, who blogs here for  inviting me to participate in the Work-in-Progress blog tour. Sherrey is writing a memoir based on a dysfunctional and abusive mother-daughter relationship. The twist is that, when Sherrey was 57, she discovered that her Southern matriarch mother needed to escape abuse herself.

Sherrey has completed a first draft of the memoir and is eager to begin a rewrite. Sherrey is widely published in various anthologies. She credits her love of words (and her editing knowhow) to her publisher father.

Thank you so much, Sherrey, for thinking of me and my memoir. It helps me get focused back on this intense writing project. You’re an inspiration with your dedication to the craft!

Synopsis of my book:

Secrets create a painful wound at the heart of a family. Dangerous emotions, such as anger, fear, guilt, shame and curiosity, grow from this wound.

Memory must be excavated scrap by scrap, salvaged, and pieced together to create a new story of origins and identity. With the building of the story, the wound begins to heal, and the resulting emotions dissipate.

Thus it is with my family. My book is the story of an old family secret that infects the present and creates a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship–and the quest for answers that allows the father and daughter to learn and forgive.

Status of my book:

Although I wasn’t ready to finish my first draft, I had to pull something together for the final step to completing a certificate in Creative Nonfiction Writing at Stanford University. This step is a tutorial where I am working under the guidance of Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land and A Thousand Lives. She has now read my manuscript and given me revision suggestions, which I am working with. Things have been so hectic with the publication of Doll God and my father’s illness (not to mention that traffic blockage I wrote about last week!) that I don’t get much time to write.

Here are brief excerpts from my first three chapters of Scrap:

Prologue

1966

Dad popped his gray-streaked head into my open doorway on his way to the kitchen. Not much bigger than I, he seemed to fill the space. “Get dressed for ballet class!” His voice was a brief bark.

Chapter One: Frank Talk

Thanksgiving 2009

The drive south from our home in Phoenix exposed the flat desolation of the region. The only sights were the occasional saguaro and the roadside ostrich farm where travelers can stop and feed the animals. Since ostriches have a reputation for being downright mean, we had never stopped there on trips to my parents’ winter condo in Green Valley, twenty-five miles past Tucson. I’d brought up the idea once. My husband of over three decades said, “Sure, I want to get snapped at by a big bird and then by your father. I don’t think so.”

Chapter Two: Nuclear Fallout

2008: the year before

“Doesn’t look like much,” Mom said, as we pulled into the parking lot of the Titan Missile Museum.

The main building was low to the ground. A few small buildings, which looked like garages or tool sheds, and large equipment were scattered throughout the fenced property.

If I hadn’t known where we were, I would have thought it looked like a work site with a few trucks and what seemed to be oil tanks, not a nuclear missile site.

The work-in-progress blog tour rules:

  1.  Link back to the post of the person who nominated you.
  2.  Write a little about and give the first sentence of the first three chapters of your current work-in-progress. Sherrey gave more than the first sentences, and I like that idea, too.
  3.  Nominate some other writers to do the same.

Tag. You’re it!

I was thrilled that these writers have agreed to take part in this work-in-progress blog tour. Please stop by their sites and get to know them and their work.

RENEE at Unpacked Writer  teaches college writing. She has published creative nonfiction and won awards for her writing and is writing a book about her adventures as a young special education teacher in a small and remote Alaskan village. Renee describes herself  this way:

My interests might find me behind a camera, an acetylene torch, spending a day with a legislator, at the farmers market, or with my nose in a guidebook mapping an adventure. Usually, I’m responding to thoughtful student writings and preparing ways to get students to think about writing.

Most days find this mid-life mother of teenagers, behind the wheel of the mommy-taxi, revising writings, volunteering in the community, figuring out how to prepare a healthy meal everyone can or will eat, or shooing our urban chickens from our kitchen door.

I am a mother, writer, traveler, wife, thyroid cancer survivor and writing instructor.

During the work week, MARIE is a public health data analyst.  After hours, she is a writer, compiling a nice tall stack of first drafts that she rather dreads having to sort through.

Marie started writing when she was about 9 years old, but she was never very confident (if at all) about her writing talent, and it was easy for her to “give up” periodically, in spite of the support she got from mentors and fellow writers. Once she got a “real” job (cue public health), it was hard to argue with anyone that she should or could expect to do better by writing. She’s made a lot of detours on her path to happiness, but finally she’s woken up to the fact that she’d rather be writing than anything else (ideally, in her pjs with a pot of hot tea for fuel).

Through her blog, www.1writeway.com, Marie has discovered a truly wonderful community in blogging, one that has been so supportive that  she no longer hesitates to say, “I am a writer.”

A born and bred Brit, SHERRI lived in California for 17 years before returning to the UK with her three children in 2003.  She began her writing career a few years ago while caring for her Aspie daughter.  Since then, she has been published in magazines, anthologies and company websites and launched her blog, A View From My Summerhouse. Today, she lives with her husband, daughter and two cats in the West Country of England where she keeps out of trouble writing her book (a memoir), walking, gardening and taking endless photographs.  Her muse, a garden robin, visits regularly.

You can reach Sherri at these online locations:

Blog link:  http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/about/

Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherri-matthews/60/798/aa3

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/103859680232786469097/posts

Renee, Marie, and Sheri, thank you so much for agreeing to take part in this WIP blog tour. I look forward to reading your posts in the future.

How about you? Do you have a work in progress?

 

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Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing goals