Tag Archives: cats

No Goodbye: A Cat Story

Five years ago, when the gardener and I adopted Kana, our black cat, I wrote a little bit about my first cat who also happened to be black. I thought I’d tell you the whole story this time. Here is TOBY’S STORY (and I’m sorry, but it’s not a pretty one):

The cat that lived with the Cuban brothers across the street had kittens the year I was seven. My parents had never shown an interest in animals, but because I was an only child and begged so desperately, they gave in and let me choose an all-black kitten.  My mother named him Toby. The only other interest I remember her taking in him was when he had a hairball, and she read up about how to care for cats with hairballs.

Toby spent most of his time hiding under my bed or in the basement.  Mom would tell me to take him outside to go potty, but he would refuse to come out. I had to find him in a dark corner downstairs or slide under my narrow bed and grab him so that he wouldn’t make a mess in the house.  I wonder if Toby and I were afraid of the same things in that house.

I don’t know how I got this pic of Toby in the living room!

One day my mother screamed. “Look what that cat’s done to my drapes!!” I ran into the living room. Tears streamed down her cheeks. The silk drapes had dozens of snags on them. Unfortunately, the drapes were the most elegant furnishing in our bungalow. They were cast-offs from one of my grandmother’s wealthy clients, and she had altered them for my parents.  I realized then that my secretive cat ventured out to the living room when everyone was asleep or not home.

A few months later, we picked up the baby brother I had been waiting for from the adoption agency office. Ted was a 6-week-old infant with a red rash covering his face. My mother hadn’t taken care of a baby for many years, and she became nervous and worried, imagining dangers.

One day that spring, when I got off the school bus, my father met me in front of the house. I was not used to seeing him home during the day. He sat me down and explained that Toby was gone. “Toby had to go away because of your new baby brother.” He told me he took Toby to a house in the country where he could live with more freedom. I don’t remember particularly believing him, but grief welled up in me like bile. Up to that point in my life, the only other serious loss I had encountered was three years before when I accidentally saw my mother cramming my white blankie into the garbage. Later, my mother would tell me, “Cats are dangerous to babies, Luanne. Toby could accidentally smother Ted.” But in those moments after I arrived home, only my father was there for me.

I still feel ashamed about what happened next. To stop my tears, Dad offered to take me to the store right then to pick out any toy I wanted. I had never in my life been able to pick out a toy. A Golden Book, yes, but not a toy. When I did receive something lovely, it was usually a hand-me-down or a gift my grandmother had sewn. We always had enough food to eat, but we were upwardly mobile poor, and my parents never bought me trendy, name-brand toys. While my friends had Barbie dolls, I had a Miss Suzette doll from Grant’s basement.

Although I continued to cry, I followed Dad to the car, and we drove to a fancy children’s store I had only seen from the outside. Once inside, my tears and confusion made it difficult to concentrate. I tried to focus my eyes, and the first item I noticed was a black imitation patent leather Barbie doll case. It epitomized the type of toys I could never dream of owning, so I pointed at it.

On the way home, I clutched the case in my hand, knowing I had betrayed Toby. I had begged to have him, which altered the course of his life. Then I accepted an empty plastic box with a handle in exchange for his silky fur and beating heart.

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I don’t know what ever really happened to Toby. I think it’s probably true that he went to live in the country because my father knew a lot of people and could have easily made that happen. But was he safe in his new home? That I don’t know. I hope he was happier than at our house. My father yelled too much, and that probably scared Toby. Since he would hide under my bed, I have to assume he wanted me to protect him. But I couldn’t protect him while I was at school. My parents would have never intentionally hurt Toby, but they didn’t make his life any easier. While I think it’s a likely story about Toby going to live in the country, I have never actually asked my parents if that is what really happened.

Alternative end to memory: I asked one of my parents, and he/she lied to me because they know I love animals and freak out about any harm to them.

I really can’t remember. What do you think?

 

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Making Sense of the Chaos

A week out from my last pandemic post, and here I am just another week deeper into Arizona-covid-season. Ugh. Is it possible that the heat makes the virus grow faster?

I’ve been thinking about how I don’t want to move very far from my writing, but that I don’t feel like actually writing. What I really like to do these days is organize. Last week I told you about organizing my poems. Organizing my genealogy research. I’m organizing my house chores.

So why?

I guess I am trying to make structure and sense out of chaos. Because this virus does seem incredibly chaotic. They still know so little about it, but some of the possibilities emerging show the virus acting very unpredictably and unlike other viruses.

There is a possibility that my cousin’s son who has been fighting for his life for a month on a ventilator could be battling covid. But when he entered the hospital he tested negative. His wife is an aide at that very hospital, coming home from work every day with hospital germs. I don’t know. We’ve all speculated so much that our brains are already twisted inside out. The thing is, he’s only 32 and has a 6-year-old son. But he’s been in a medically-induced coma for almost three weeks now. When he entered the hospital, he wasn’t all that sick–he posted on Facebook right away about what was going on. How does a young person with no pre-existing conditions get this sick this fast and nobody knows what’s wrong with him?!

Yes, I feel depressed about him being so sick. It’s that feeling underneath everything that something awful is happening no matter how blue the sky. Please pray for him if you’re so inclined. Or send some super special healing vibes toward SW Michigan. His name is Matt.

In the midst, though, I need to be there for other people. My daughter put off looking for a wedding dress that had been scheduled in April. She begged me to go with her at the end of June, so I went with her Friday. The shop scheduled an appointment just for her–no other clients allowed inside during our time. We all wore masks. I used my sanitizer a few times and even sprayed my chair with Lysol ;). You can laugh, but I am getting nervous about the numbers here in Arizona mounting every day.

It was good to spend time with my daughter. Originally we wanted her future MIL to be with us, but we had to Facetime her once the gown was selected. She’s stuck in New Jersey (on the golf course haha). It was very easy to pick out a dress. Our taste is similar, she already had an idea of what she wanted,  I already had an idea of what she wanted, and we both knew what would look good on her and what would not. She found the most gorgeous dress I’ve  ever seen. And they are going to alter it in a way that will “customize” the dress and be exactly what she wants.

All the main components of the wedding have been selected now. They found a rabbi they love. Well, he’s a …Longhorn. Daughter and her fiancé are Sooners! Some Red River Rivalry haha. The rabbi will be the main officiant. Then they are looking for a priest or pastor to work with the rabbi. They have a stunning venue. But if they need to only have a few of us at the wedding because of that nasty covid, at least the dress and the rabbi can both still be used.

I almost forgot to mention: I got my last acceptance to complete my 2020 goal. Twist in Time magazine selected a short nonfiction piece for publication in a couple of days. Woot.

I am going to close comments here. I hope you don’t mind. I still need to catch up on comments from last week. I also need to add a little bacon grease to food I set in front of Tiger. Yup. Only way she’ll eat it. Then I need to organize something.

This is not the dress!

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What’s Good About This?

I haven’t mentioned the pandemic too much lately because it’s so much of the same-old-same. And I know when I mention anything on social media or Facebook to friends that some of them get depressed at any covid talk. But I thought about not posting because it’s all I wanted to talk about today–and I didn’t want to muzzle myself. Except with a 3-layer face mask, of course.

Arizona numbers are way up, and this is after I’ve been hibernating for over three months. The appointment for my daughter to look at bridal gowns is Friday, and I am supposed to go with her. It’s so so hard to develop much enthusiasm at this point.

So in the interests of our mental health (there is so little of it available currently) I will mention covid negatives that turned into positives only.

  • Following Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I started this program last fall and joined a local group for moral support. The group is still meeting once a month (by Zoom now), but the only thing I am writing in my morning pages is what I made for dinner each day. I have over 3 months of menus, but nothing else since the pandemic began. So what’s good about this? I like writing our dinners down. Maybe it will come in handy some day. HAHAHA And I am glad the meetings are still being held because it’s wonderful to consort with other women artist types.
  • I have pandemic brain. Very fuzzy and not very smart. I had to look up “consort” to make sure about the meaning. Yup. It means to “habitually associate with (someone), typically with the disapproval of others.” A lot of artistic women have experienced the disapproval of others throughout their lives, so we’re there (here?) for each other. So what’s good about this? Recognizing that we have each others’ backs.
  • I can’t/won’t travel, see my mother in Michigan, go out to dinner. Yes, we are being very careful. So what’s good about this? More time with my cats, especially with the oldsters, Pear and Tiger, who just want me near them all the time.
  • Although I wrote a few poems near the beginning of the “lockdown,” I no longer even want to write a poem. Or if I do, it’s a little tiny flicker, not a flame. Certainly not enough to sustain me through a whole poem. So what’s good about this? I took the time to organize my poems into one chapbook, then another chapbook, then I put both chapbooks together into a full-length collection. It might still keep morphing, but at least I feel like I’m doing something! I’ve been working on titles, too ;).
  • Because of the pandemic I am beyond exhausted and have way too much work to do. This happened because 1) I have way more work-work than I did before, 2) I have no occasional help as I did before, and 3) all that damn cooking. So what’s good about this, you might ask?! OK, this is a  little convulated. Maybe I’m pushing it. But I think it’s true. I don’t want to give up on my genealogy research, no matter what. But I really am too pandemic-brained and tired to do anything mentally taxing. So instead, I am doing a mindless fill-in-the-gaps project for my direct ancestors (I think I’ve mentioned this before) AND I am organizing my genealogy documents on my computer. Um, they were a mess. So I am pretty happy that I am making some structure out of chaos.
  • I miss hugging my kids. You got me there. Nothing good about that.

This probably doesn’t have much to do with covid, but I am only one journal away from meeting my publication goal for 2020! There are still four due to publish throughout the summer. Waiting on that one more acceptance . . . 🙂

Wear your masks, please. Wash your hands. Carry sanitizer with you. And if you need to travel and you’re female, get one of those pee funnels. If you’re male, get one of those portable urinals. That will save you from some restroom covid germs. I guess since I can’t hug my kids, I am trying to “mom” everyone else!

XOXO

Pear Blossom, age 20 1/4

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My (Feline) Nursing Sideline

Tiger Queenie Princess Mimi Josefina has not been herself lately. For the last year and a half she has become pickier and pickier about her food. But it has gotten so bad in the last few weeks that for the most part all she will eat is a tiny bit of shredded chicken, a tiny bit of fried ground beef, and/or Temptations treats in seafood or tuna flavor. When she’s had enough appetite stimulant and this Pepto-Bismol type stuff for cats to coat her tummy, she might eat the tiniest amount of Friskies chicken or Weruva Lamb Burgini.

So I brought her to the doctor last week who took her from me at curbside (tears shed from both Tiger and me!) and did blood and pee tests, as well as a physical exam. When the lab results came back, the vet recommended an abdominal ultrasound. I said yes. Tiger is sixteen, but then she is only sixteen. Her sister Pear is twenty, and Tiger seems so healthy in general. The vet even said she appears healthy. Except for her mild to moderate kidney disease.

Next stop was the specialist to do the ultrasound. While I waited in my car (more tears shed at letting Tiger go through it all alone), the specialist called me and said nothing showed up on the ultrasound. She explained her theories and suggested a chest xray and a biopsy of her intestines (going through her esophagus). I approved the chest xray, but not the biopsy.

Tiger is my smallest cat, and coupled with her age, I don’t want them doing something so invasive. And to what end? To find out she has lymphoma? Then what?

The chest xray turned up nothing, so it’s possible that she either has some irritable bowel something or other going on or has lymphoma. That’s when I got the purple medicine that is like Pepto-Bismol–it coats the stomach. We also got Cerenia for nausea. The thought is that Tiger must have a tummy ache that makes her not want to eat.

The only other treatment we can try is steroids, which I am reluctant to do because of her kidney disease. I will see if we need to do that. I am focused on trying to get food in her every day.

 

Tiger on the warm laundry in the basket

In the evening, I lie on the couch with a book or my Kindle, and Pear Blossom is at my side and Tiger lies just below her, also at my side. Pear is twenty, so she’s Tiger’s big sister. Sometimes Perry lies on the back of the couch because he’s a jealous boy and wants to be on the couch with Mama, too. But he’s starting to realize he needs to not annoy the two old ladies.

 

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Let’s Keep National Poetry Month in Mind

If we keep National Poetry Month in mind throughout April maybe it will take the edge off social distancing through April 30. As for Arizona, we were put on a stay-at-home order on Monday that is to last through April.

So: National Poetry Month. For the second year in a row, I like the poster. For years I couldn’t stand the posters, then last year they had a contest and chose a design by a high school student. And it was great.

They did the same thing this year, and I love the result. The assignment was to submit artwork that incorporated line(s) from the poem “Remember” by current U. S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo that “reflected a celebration of the art of poetry.”

This poster was designed by Samantha Aikman, a 10th grader.

Honorable mention went to senior Kai Huie:

It is also National Poetry Writing Month or NaPoWriMo. Try your hand at writing a poem a day!

So happy April. And HAPPY 16TH BIRTHDAY TO TIGER QUEENIE PRINCESS MIMI JOSEFINA.

Nobody can do resting bitch face like my little princess

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Reporting In

Reporting in from the pandemic, as I sort of promised last week. Not going too stir crazy yet, although my concerns about all the changes to our collective and individual as-planned futures has me a bit shocked.

I wrote a few poems about the Thing happening to us, as I mentioned last week, but have agonized over a weird about-what? poem all week on and off. One of my pandemic poems is coming out in the anthology Poetry in the Time of Coronavirus, ed. G. A. Cuddy. I read a bit of it for PITTOC, and they posted it on their Instagram account. I reposted it on my Instagram account. The poem is called “Another Elephant Poem,” of course related to the elephant in the room.

Another one of my pandemic poems was published by Headline Poetry and Press: Monkey Mind

I would not call either one of these poems uplifting. They simply are. The third poem I sent out to a journal so we’ll see: that poem is a bit more upbeat.

On a positive note, Hermione Wilds reads one of my pre-pandemic poems on Youtube.

You know that video found on Instagram that I mentioned above?  I kid you not: I absolutely did not have this many wrinkles, bloatings, and sags before March. Yes, I am getting older, and my face is showing it. But, WOW, what a difference a month makes. I have not been sleeping well. Rather than having insomnia, I have been sleeping, but my sleep has been plagued by nightmares. One night the dream went on forEVER, with me trying to social distance and people not allowing it. No matter where I went, people crowded up around me.

Is that creepy or what, that I am apparently now afraid of people?!

Now here are some good doings.

Funny: at the cats’ dinner time I shut our bedroom door so Sloopy Anne doesn’t run in there after dinner. She likes to lie in wait for us, but she can’t sleep with us because she and Tiger get jealous of each other–and Tiger gets to sleep with us. So now the second I try to sneak to the bedroom door, Sloopy Anne anticipates and races me for the door. I keep trying to figure out ways to trick her, but she is ON to me. Pretty cute.

Making: I wrote a story about a fabric scrap for a page in my SCRAPS scrapbook. The edits took me all week. I might make two pages out of this one because the story is so long. Or I might just insert the story inside a pocket or somesuch and keep it all to one page. I haven’t started making the page yet, so I will have to see how it turns out.

Content: I’m so blessed to have my cats. I am celebrating Pear’s birthday today. She turns 20. I will celebrate Tiger’s birthday this week, too. She turns 16. They are the oldest of my six. All but Perry are seniors. As my poem “Monkey Mind” mentions, I wish everyone who is lockdowned or isolating had pets to give them love.

 

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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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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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My Poor Baby Fefe

My boy Fefe has been sick for days. I am taking him to the vet this morning for the diagnosis.

This was Felix a day before he got sick.

By the next day he was sneezing. You see, Perry had sneezed for a full week before that, but he wasn’t really sick, and his sneeze had already disappeared.

So when Felix began sneezing I wasn’t too worried. I went away on Friday for most of the day, and by the time I got home late afternoon, he was holding his mouth open and looking very odd.

My vet, who is a wonderful person who does a lot of work for the shelter animals, said to bring him right over. Although they were fully booked, the vet examined him in back. At that time he wasn’t sure if he was dealing with an infection of the mouth and/or an upper respiratory infection–and the treatments are different. So they gave me an appointment for Monday morning, hoping the symptoms would shake out by then.

They shook out late that night when I became convinced Felix had a pretty bad URI.

I isolated Felix because I am terrified of Pear (who is now 20) getting sick. The gardener set up a humidifier for him because Google says a humidifier helps cats with URIs. I also have had to hand feed him food–and not his hated prescription urinary diet, but Weruva salmon (nice and stinky), Temptations treats, and Inaba Churu scallop-flavored creamy treats.

Please send prayers, hugs, vibes, and virtual pets to my dear boy! (Yes, he’s the one that had the urinary blockage last August!)

On a writing note: I have been revising as I can this week. It’s been hard to fit in in, so I try to grab at least 30 minutes to revise. Better than nothing.

Hope we all have a healthy, peaceful week!

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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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