Tag Archives: Memoir

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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Filed under #amwriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Family history, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing, writing prompt

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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Filed under #writerslife, Arizona, Art and Music, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

Arizona Spring

This has been a three-snake week. All kingsnakes. A baby, an adult of moderate size, and a huge one. Although I’m not a snake lover, I do love that the kingsnakes protect our yard from rattlesnakes. Kingsnakes are not only pretty (black with cream stripes), they are pretty deadly to other snakes–even bigger snakes. What helps is that kingsnakes are immune to rattlesnake venom. Kingsnakes kill their prey by constriction, and they are powerful constrictors. As long as I don’t accidentally get too close to a kingsnake, I enjoy having them here, protecting us from other snakes.

Kingsnakes hibernate in the winter, so I know it’s spring when I see them roaming after months of absence.

I saw Perry watching the biggest snake from the window. He didn’t look very concerned, but I imagine he sees all kinds of animals outside that I don’t even notice. New cuteness about Perry: I am doing exercises at home for my shoulder on the days I don’t go to physical therapy. He copies me by lying on his back on the floor next to me. I hit the floor. He hits the floor. I get up. He walks away.

It’s been difficult to work on my memoir because my vision is so blurry. I’ve been trying to push forward, but it’s getting next to impossible. I have my next eye doctor appointment in a week and half, and I can’t wait.

This week many of our cacti bloomed. Click on the pix and use the side arrows to move from one to the other.

Make it a great week!

 

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What I’m Doing for National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month! Are you doing anything special to celebrate? Even if you’re not a poet, why not try reading a poem a day? For something new, try this site for Vandal Poem of the Day: https://poetry.lib.uidaho.edu/ I start out the day reading 2-3 poems all year around, but I have four new books of poetry to read this month as well.

Rather than writing a draft a day as I have some Aprils, I am working on Scrap, my hybrid memoir. Each piece is the size of a prose poem, so I am trying to write 5/week. Because it’s more difficult than writing new poem drafts, I can’t challenge myself to 7/week. I need a little off-time. Also, my stupid snakes and birds eye needs a break. That’s what happens now for the most part to my vitreous detachment plagued eye: undulating snakes over the eye’s surface and bird swarms in the sky.

WordPress’ new upgrade has made it even more difficult to use the classic editing feature. It’s a bummer to me because I don’t like the other blogging sites nearly as much, but I don’t want to learn something new that is this complicated. When I first started my blogs in 2012, the process was completely intuitive. This stupid new WP setup is non-intuitive.

Are you learning to sucessfully use the block editing madness? If so, do you have any tips?

The weather is gorgeous right now in Phoenix. It is very summery with that soft morning air that makes me think I’m living in a resort climate (I guess I am). Add all the gardener’s winter flowers to the vision, and it’s just lovely. But April leads to May, which means that we need to change out the flowers next month for summer flowers.

Check out Amy Bess Cohen’s new book based on her family history. I wrote a review and posted it on The Family Kalamazoo: https://wp.me/p2K45r-22h You can find the link for the book over there. The story is very unique as it’s about her great-great grandfather, a young Jewish immigrant from Germany around the time of the Civil War, and how he moves to Santa Fe, becoming one of the pioneers of that city.

I called the Southwest Wildlife place again on the bobcat. The woman who takes the questions is not very helpful. Her attitude is that he belongs in our yard. My thought is that since I DON’T want him trapped and removed, she ought to be more helpful. The way she acts, a lot of callers would just hang up and call a trapper. She said, “We’re a WILDLIFE place.” Yeah, that’s the point. Don’t you want to help people with wildlife so that the wildlife is helped?

Leaving you with some cute pix from my kids.

The baby hummingbirds are from son and daughter(IL) in Orange County, CA. These chubbies who were hatched on the balcony left the nest on Friday.

This next pic is from daughter and her fiance. My fur grandkids who live in Arizona.

Follow me at: https://www.instagram.com/catpoems/

Let’s go make it a great week (and be helpful to others while we’re at it haha). XOXO

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Filed under #AmWriting, #amwriting, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Memoir, National Poetry Month, Poetry, Writing

Palimpsest of Scraps

The more time I spend with my art journal(s), the more I am realizing what appeals to me and what I like to work on. I am beginning to see a connection with my writing. 

The word palimpsest carries great meaning for me. Here is the Merriam-Webster definition:

palimpsest

noun

pa·​limp·​sest | \ ˈpa-ləm(p)-ˌsest  pə-ˈlim(p)-  \

Definition of palimpsest

1writing material (such as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased

2something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface

The following image is my latest two pages. I call it a palimpsest because it was created with many layers, and bits of each layer show in the finished pages, whether by eyesight or touch. For instance, there are pieces of poems: “It Would Be Easier to Stop Talking to Your Ghost” by Stella Li and “Triptych in Black and Blue” by Tatiana Johnson-Boria, published by Pleiades.

I’m also using my love of the reality and concept of scrap (title of my memoir-in-scrap), as well as a poem I’ve recently shared. I also love scrapbooking and used to love to design and make stained glass. I haven’t worked with quilting at all and not with mosaics since I was a kid, but those are other scrap arts and crafts that I love. 

For the initial layer of these pages, I used scraps from many sources, including graph paper, music, poetry, a story, a piece of an envelope flap that has the Hallmark logo embossed, and ripped up practice runs with art materials. I even included a hunk of the glued bottom of a brown bag. 

I skimmed through my pages in order of when I made them, and I discovered that at first my collaging was on the “top” of the page, so to speak, whereas now I am using collage as a base and then a bit more in one or two other stages. I learned the value of collage underneath because of all the interest it provides. My first pages look very flat in comparison.

Onward to more improvement LOL. I do see a connection (first noticed by Sheila Morris) between these art pages and my poetry. The layering, complexity, and happenstance, for one–er, three–things.  

I’m going to start PT for my shoulder/arm. And now I have vitreous detachment of my only reading eye. One of my eyes is to see distance, and the other is for reading. Seriously. That’s why I can’t wear bifocals and rarely wear glasses just wandering around. I wear glasses to read, another pair for driving, and then I have a computer pair made out of some really old and ugly frames. But my eyes (sort of) don’t work together, so having a really blurry reading eye kind of sucks.

Saturday I walked outside into the blue-blue sky, and I was attacked by swarms of birds from every direction. It was like a remake of the Hitchcock movie. But they weren’t real birds. They were one of the entertainments my eyes are providing me right now :/.

In other news, the puffballs are out! Technically, they are called Sweet Acacia trees, but we call them the dang puffballs. There isn’t a human alive who isn’t allergic to these things. They smell super sweet and, at first, you will think they are roses. But then the scent goes on and on and becomes sickening and you realize it isn’t roses at all. But they do signify home after all these years.

In the close-up you can see that this tree has two little puffballs growing from the trunk itself.

Announcements:

Pear Blossom’s 21st birthday is tomorrow!!! And Tiger Queenie’s 17th is April 1. Happy birthday, sweet girls.

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Poetic Book Tours: Review of Arisa White’s Who’s Your Daddy

Today’s post is on Tuesday instead of Monday because I am participating in a pre-publication book tour of poet Arisa White’s Who’s Your Daddy through Poetic Book Tours.

Here is a synopsis of the book

Who’s Your Daddy is a lyrical genre-bending coming-of-age tale featuring a young, queer, black Guyanese American woman who, while seeking to define her own place in the world, negotiates an estranged relationship with her father.

After my review, I will share advance praise for the book, as well as information about the author, Arisa White. Then there is a list of blog tour links, including interviews and guest posts so you can learn more about Arisa White.

 

This hybrid is specifically memoir, but Who’s Your Daddy? shapes itself as a prose (and lyric) poem collection. I don’t know why we don’t have more books available to us that are a long narrative told in poetry. They are rare and yet so compelling, perhaps because poem series elicit more complex mixtures of emotions from readers than linear traditional memoirs do.

 

What attracted me to the book before I read it was the feeling of connection (my memoir-in-progress has to do with my father’s estranged relationship with his father) and the ping of curiosity about White’s life as a “young, queer, black Guyanese[-] American woman” since I fit only one of those descriptives.

 

From the first page I was captivated by the story. In the first section, the writing is succinct with a smattering of specifics that bring White’s childhood to life. She imagines or fills in what she can’t remember—the ride to the hospital for her birth, what life was like in the first few years. She grows up without her father, Gerald, a married man. She does experience love from her mother and her uncles, but life is still difficult. The book skips ahead to White at the time of her post-graduate studies. She has difficulties with relationships, but manages to forge one with Mondayway. White feels there is something missing. Halfway through the book, she realizes she has been running from something.

 

Deep breaths open my

tight chest, and I feel how running has taken more than

given. I rub my heart with the heel of my palm, and my

heart stays voicing,

 

Find your father

                   Find what’s missing there

                   Find what is enough

                   Find yourself whole

                   Forgive and be forgiven

 

In the second half of the story, White tries to get to know her father. He has been deported back to Guyana from the U.S. for participation in a crime. White and Mondayway visit Guyana to spend time with Gerald, but also to get to know White’s roots. Her movement toward acceptance and growth is a bit back and forth which feels realistic and painful. Again, powerful words that mark another epiphany are set apart from the prose poem form:

 

I got her back,

who I abandoned

in his going.

And, Yes,

                   she is enough.

 

Arisa is enough. She doesn’t need her fantasy of a father to fulfill her identity.

 

There is so much I could write about this book, but I just want to give you an idea of why you would want to read it. The prose poems are short. The organization is helpful, as are the brief Guyanese proverbs and quotes from thinkers. I found references to even an old standby like the Bible and Shakespeare or Eliot (the pearls that are his eyes from The Tempest or The Waste Land—I wasn’t sure which one she was referencing, maybe both). But much of the book is punctuated with more contemporary thinking, such as the context of toxic masculinity. Gerald is a tragic example of that phenomenon. In fact, near the end of the book I realized that I can’t stand Gerald. I was willing to try to get to know him “while” Arisa did, but when he continued to do harm to her through his selfishness and misogyny, I could no longer try to tolerate him.

 

The book can be read in two sittings, but you will want to mark passages and go back to them. You will be thinking about Arisa White’s story for days afterward.

***

Those of you who know I have been working on my memoir for 1,000 years might be interested to hear that I found White’s format super inspiring. I’m trying out writing my memoir in prose poems instead of traditional prose. In some ways, I feel that I am going back to the beginning of my project a bit, when I was writing in “scraps,” but it’s a world away from what I’ve done before, too.

***

Advance Praise:
“…absence breeds madness, an irreconcilable relationship you know is there but can’t call it by its name…” In these crisply narrative poems, which unreel like heart-wrenching fragments of film, Arisa White not only names that gaping chasm between father and daughter, but graces it with its true and terrible face. Every little colored girl who has craved the constant of her father’s gaze will recognize this quest, which the poet undertakes with lyric that is tender and unerring.
-Patricia Smith, Incendiary ArtArisa White channels the ear of Zora Neal Hurston, the tongue of Toni Cade Bambara, and the eye of Alice Walker in the wondrous Who’s Your Daddy. She channels Guyanese proverbs, Shango dreams, games of hide and seek, and memories of an absentee father to shape the spiritual condition. What she makes is “a maze that bobs and weaves a new style whenever there’s a demand to love.” What she gives us are archives, allegories, and wholly new songs.
-Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future AssassinsSomewhere nearing its end, Arisa White says of Who’s Your Daddy, it’s “a portrait of absence and presence, a story, a tale, told in patchwork fashion…” This exactly says what Who’s Your Daddy is, though it doesn’t say all it takes to do justice to the mythic paradox an absent parent guarantees a child, young or grown, or what it takes to live with and undergo such birthright. There’s not only a father’s absence and presence, there’s a mother who says you raise your daughters, and love your sons, there are stepfathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, a grandmother, brothers, lovers, all of whom leave their marks and give and take love. Surrounding the whole book hovers the questions do I forgive him, and is forgiveness possible? This beautifully, honestly conceived genius of a book shook me to the core.
-Dara Wier, You Good ThingHow does a lyric memoir—a queered-up autobiographical hybrid of prose and poetry—become a real page-turner? Well, for one thing, its speaker uses her authenticity and open-heartedness to generate a rib-cracking amount of courage to look for, find, and emotionally confront a missing Guyanese father who ends up being the “unhello” of a “nevermind.” What’s so moving about this discovery is the speaker’s lyric response. It’s a shrug that’s a song that’s the speaker telling it experimentally-straight about how it feels to have “arms free of fathers.” It’s a story that’s a song that’s the speaker’s “gangster swagger” that beautifully tells of how to confront one’s relation to “a culture of deadbeats, wannabes, has-beens, what-ifs, [and] can’t-shows” without succumbing to despair. One really wants to quote Plath’s line here about “eat[ing] men like air.” Oh, I love the courage of this book. The whole “black heart” and love-strength of it. And you will too!
-Adrian Blevins, Appalachians Run AmokA lyric anthem for the fatherless, for seekers of the places and people that made us, for the artists ready to unearth and reshape their own stories. I gulped this exquisite manual like precious medicine, a spell that made me more myself.
-Melissa Febos, Abandon MeCollaborative, interactive, this work of poetry and memoir offers life as a recurring question. Who’s Your Daddy is a study of how power and loss work on the intimate scales of daily living and queer loving. Read this with compassion for your own defining questions and the raw texture they have left upon your heart.
-Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Dub: Finding Ceremony

Who’s Your Daddy is striking and gorgeous. “I’m born into a bracket of boys,” White writes, framing a portrait of fatherhood that shutters and aches; it enthralls. I wanted to lap it up. A reflection on family that permeates via knitted prose with deep verse—my favorite kind. White’s work is sonic, lyric, and important. I can’t wait for y’all to read this book.
-Emerson Whitney, Heaven

ARISA WHITE is a Cave Canem fellow, Sarah Lawrence College alumna, an MFA graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of the poetry chapbooks Disposition for Shininess, Post Pardon, Black Pearl, Perfect on Accidentand “Fish Walking” & Other Bedtime Stories for My Wife won the inaugural Per Diem Poetry Prize. Published by Virtual Artists Collective, her debut full-length collection, Hurrah’s Nest, was a finalist for the 2013 Wheatley Book Awards, 82nd California Book Awards, and nominated for a 44th NAACP Image Awards. Her second collection, A Penny Saved, inspired by the true-life story of Polly Mitchell, was published by Willow Books, an imprint of Aquarius Press in 2012. Her latest full-length collection, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, was published by Augury Books and nominated for the 29th Lambda Literary Awards. Most recently, Arisa co-authored, with Laura Atkins, Biddy Mason Speaks Up, a middle-grade biography in verse on the midwife and philanthropist Bridget “Biddy” Mason, which is the second book in the Fighting for Justice series. She is currently co-editing, with Miah Jeffra and Monique Mero, the anthology Home is Where You Queer Your Heart, which will be published by Foglifter Press in 2021. And forthcoming in February 2021, from Augury Books, her poetic memoir Who’s Your Daddy.

Blog Tour Schedule:

Oct. 12: Diary of an Eccentric (Guest Post)

Oct. 21: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (Review)

Nov. 20: CelticLady’s Reviews (Interview)

Nov. 23: Unconventional Quirky Bibliophile (Review)

Jan. 19: Allonge and emzi_reads (Review)

Feb. 23: Luanne Castle’s Writer Site (Review)

March 12: Anthony Avina Blog (Guest Post)

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Filed under #writerslife, Book Review, Creative Nonfiction, Inspiration, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Writing

Too Many Ideas

Last Monday I saw the Wizard (aka the infectious disease doctor). I learned more about Valley Fever, plus I was able to hear his insights about Covid. And he told me about a Margaret Atwood poem in The New Yorker. Does anybody have a copy of it? I’d love to see the poem if you could take a pic and send it over :).

For a VF case like mine, I can expect to have the exhaustion for four months. After six months if I don’t get worse I can be pretty sure I won’t be bothered by it again, except for the node or nodes left in my lung (which is just an annoyance).

As far as Covid goes, he told me no restaurants (not even outdoors) and nobody in my house to fix the sink without a mask on. I have to entertain my family outside. So basically, just what I’ve been doing since mid-March.

Two weeks ago I talked about my new archetype tarot cards and researching The Destroyer archetype. Because I’ve had other stuff I’ve had to do I didn’t get as into it as I would like as of yet. But you know what I did anyway? This is so crazy. Let me preface it by saying that lying on the couch too tired to actually do something gives me a lot of time to think. And you know what I think about? All I should be doing, all I want to be doing, and about new things to do. Insanely, I bought supplies to start an art journal. I am already missing writing, staring at the tarot boxes (Wild Unknown and Original), and not touching my SCRAP scrapbook project (fabric swatches and memories).  I need to face the fact that I am one of those people who always have to have projects going on. My dad was like that, too. I’m pretty sure there is a gene that causes it.

I have watched more TV in the past month and a half than in the last year, I think. I’m not a TV person usually, but the gardener and I recorded all the October horror movies and have been watching them. Plus we love Professor T , a Belgian mystery show, and Baptiste, sequel to The Missing. The latter is filmed in Amsterdam and is more “typical” than the former. Professor T is a bit surprising and very endearing. Then on Netflix, on my laptop, I watched (by myself) The Haunting of Bly Manor. I found it interesting (the blind casting was very thought-provoking and problematic), but a little slow-moving. I’m also left with so many questions. [SPOILER ALERT!!!!! skip to next paragraph] For instance, if the ghosts originated with Viola, why was Dani haunted by her fiance even before she went to Bly? Wait, what about Miles? How did he survive? How did grownup Flora not recognize the names Bly and Owen, especially since Owen was at her wedding? Was Jamie really at Flora’s wedding or not? She seemed ghostlike to me, but she was still alive.

My daughter says the The Haunting of Hill House is not as slow, so I should watch it.

I am so blessed. I am not in much pain, and I have a good prognosis. I have everything I need at home (except people), and I live with the gardener and six pretty kitties so am not lonely. And nobody is waiting for me to finish that art journal ;).

With Covid on the rise, PLEASE STAY SAFE. No unnecessary risks. It’s not fair to yourself, to your loved ones, or to others, including healthcare workers. But then you knew all that.

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Off to See the Wizard

Cutest 11 seconds on video: my sweet Perry.

I’m off to be seen by the infectious disease doctor this morning. Fingers crossed.

Here are a few photos of our wacky garden.

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A Little This, A Little That, and a Lot of VF

My life has slowed down to a crawl, but I am still learning things. For instance, this. Sloopy Anne has to eat her meals in the bedroom because she has a sensitive nature and Perry will keep her from eating if he can get to her. She is so skittish that if I set the food  down, turn around, and start to leave the room she will run out of the room ahead of me, unless I walk out backwards. Hahaha. So she watches the direction my feet are pointed. That should not surprise me because cats are all about gestures. That’s how they communicate. A flick of the tail, a tip of the ear.

When you see how innocent he looks when he sleeps or cuddles it’s hard to believe Perry can be so naughty.

I’m learning a lot about this stupid Valley Fever. I still have the same pneumonia I had a month ago and it’s possible that my blood levels have gone up (they will be retested in a couple weeks); this is because the fungus grows very very slowly and then very very slowly is pushed into an onion of a lung nodule (the rings, you know). This will take months. The fungus doesn’t just evaporate. It gets pressed by my immune system like a pearl in the making. In the end there will be a nodule in my lung.

Another thing I learned about VF is that my neck pain–remember my neck pain from a few weeks ago?–was the first symptom I had of the disease. For some people that is the first sign. A man in an online support group told me to hydrate like crazy (my GP had told me that, too) and that the pain would be diminished because it’s displaced pain from the inflammation in the lungs. I was glad to hear of something to use because the neck pain had come back, radiated into my upper back on the left side (my left lung is the affected one), and I had even bought a little brace from Amazon. (Gee, Mom. It cost ten bucks–how much could one have cost in the late 60s?)

I’ve also learned that the brain fog from VF makes me make stupid mistakes, so I need to avoid impersonal social media as much as possible. I hope I don’t make an egregious error on here, but I guess y’all will understand if that happens. That word “egregious” is so much fun. Years ago I bought a book on sale called I Always Look Up the Word Egregious. After that, I never forgot what it meant and it’s a lot of fun to say.

This fall has brought a lot of rejections from lit journals. Some of them even praise the work I sent, but say it doesn’t fit. Um, ok. What does that mean? I think it means it’s weird. But I did have a pleasant acceptance finally this past weekend to The Orchards Poetry Journal. Another problem with publications right now is that there are a few poems that were accepted many months ago, but the issues have not been published yet.

Keep on staying safe, please!!! Grab this week by the horns!

 

 

 

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Learning from the Past (haha)

The gardener and I went to California for a couple of days last week. That was our first time out and about in six months. The only interesting thing I saw on the trip was a fire in the mountains near Palm Springs. A huge red helicopter was sucking up water out of a pond that had been created for the purpose of firefighting. Then it flew up toward the smoke pouring out of the side of the mountain.

This photo was taken through the car window as we zipped along the freeway. Notice the pond under the helicopter.

The day after we got back from California my neck went BONKERS. It was so painful that I couldn’t even lie down as the pressure was excruciating. It reminded me of when I injured my neck in sixth grade.

That incident belongs in the category of what were my parents thinking? 

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I was eleven, and we had been tumbling in gym class. I’d always been so-so to lousy in PE. My best events were sprinting and square dancing. Definitely not gymnastics.

The kids from both sixth grade classes were in a line, rushing through barrel rolls on a padded-top vaulting “horse.” As I eased myself over the vinyl for the third time, almost folding my over-long neck in two, I felt something crack. By the time I completed the mile-long walk home after school, the pain demanded attention. It gored me anew as if with an awl with every slight movement of my body.

At the emergency room, my parents gathered round the doctor as he pointed to the damaged vertebrae on an X-ray. “This is why she has to brace her neck. It will also help keep down the inflammation.” Mom’s shoulders were hunched. She had pulled into herself. Dad bounced on the balls of his feet.

At home, Dad wrapped my neck with a faded beach towel and pinned it with one of my brother’s diaper pins. The towel still held the out-of-context smell of sand and Coppertone.

After a night spent awake more often than asleep because of the lump under my neck, I finally fell into a deep sleep sometime after the glow-in-the-dark hands on my alarm clock displayed 5:30. But at 6:30, I awoke to find my arms wrapped around my limp ragdoll, my mother gently shaking my arm. “Wake up. You’ve got to get ready for school.”

I couldn’t believe what she was saying. “School? I can’t go to school.” I wrapped the covers tightly around my shoulders.

Mom pulled the cover down to the foot of the bed. “Rise and shine, Lulu. Your friends will be here for you pretty soon. I made eggs and sausage.” Every morning, the neighbor kids stopped by my house so I could join the group walking to school.

“What about the towel?” It had gotten twisted while I slept, and I tugged on it, trying to straighten it.

As Mom unpinned the towel, I could smell fried pork patties on her hands. “You have to wear it,” she said, as she re-wrapped the towel around my neck.

I didn’t think I had understood her correctly. “I can’t wear a towel to school!”

“You heard the doctor. It’s not negotiable.” I knew that voice, and I knew Dad’s iron hand lurked somewhere behind Mom’s no-nonsense tone.

Reluctantly, and perhaps in shock, I got dressed, ate a few bites of breakfast, and when the doorbell rang, I was ready to go, beach towel and all. When I opened the door, my friends all spoke at once.

“Gaaah, what’s that around your neck?!”

“What’s the deal?”

“Wha . . . .” Karen collapsed into a sputtering laugh.

That day I suffered. Kids pointed their fingers and mimed explosive laughter attacks as they walked past me in the hall. In class, they whispered behind their hands, staring openly at me.

I stood alone at my locker and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the windows across the hall. A girl with a giant donut around her neck.

A neck brace would have drawn attention to me in a negative, pitiful way. But a beach towel and diaper pin? That launched the pitiful on a swift path to the ridiculous.

Underneath the towel, the swelling increased, the pain intensified, and my voice began to diminish. By lunchtime, I could only rasp. Pain closed off all but the sensory part of my mind.

I sheepishly approached my teacher’s desk and croaked unintelligibly.

“Let’s go to the office.” Her suggestion seemed a relief. The office was far from the laughing eyes of the kids.

To the secretary seated behind the counter who stared with an open mouth at my beach towel, my teacher said, “I don’t think school is the place for her. Can you please call her mother to pick her up?”

In the car on the way home, my mother said, “Why didn’t you tell me it hurt?”

I thought I’d made clear that I was in no condition to go to school and that a towel did not make a neck brace that I could wear in public. But my mother seemed to think it was my fault that I didn’t communicate better.

“I did tell you! And it got worse today at school!” I gulped in some air. “It was horrible!” Sobs burst from my mouth before I could control them and that began a shuddery crying jag. Every time my mother would try to pat my arm with a jerky, awkward movement, I cried louder.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you disliked it so.” My mother frowned as if she were confused.

The doctor must have set my mother straight when she called him about the swelling and pain because she kept me home from school for a month after that.

Now that I’ve been a mother long enough to see my kids reach adulthood, I can see the scene through Mother’s Eyes. The reactions of my parents perplex me more than they ever did. I never doubted that they loved me, but they didn’t listen to me or imagine things from my perspective.

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Having lived through that experience gave me the idea the other night to wrap a pair of yoga pants around my neck. Perfect! I was able to sleep through the night wearing that “brace” around my neck. My neck got much better because the brace took weight off my neck. So now I am sleeping with the pants around my neck every night!

Do you have a childhood memory where you wondered what in the world your parent or parents were thinking?

 

 

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