Tag Archives: Nonfiction

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.

###

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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Filed under #amrevising, #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

Nonfiction Story Up at Twist in Time Magazine

My nonfiction story about an important little house in my past was published in the new issue of Twist in Time Magazine. Thank you to editor Renee Firer.

And guess what? Merril Smith has two poems in the issue, too!

You can find my story here:

The Changing House

The issue with Merril’s poems and some other excellent pieces is here:

Twist in Time Magazine Issue 9

Here is a photo of The Changing House itself in  its very first manifestation.

And here is a photo I took of some of the neighborhood kids with my little camera. My brother is in this pic, second from our left.

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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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Filed under #amrevising, #writerlife, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Literary Journals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Publishing

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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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

A Walk in the Neighborhood, Arizona Style

What do I see and hear and smell on a walk near my house?

From the moment I step outside I smell flower fragrance. So I take a big sniff and keep walking. I hear songbirds singing.

Next I see the seedpods. Everywhere. Here are just a few.

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Then I see the pretty Mexican bird of paradise plant.  See how fiery and unique the blossoms are!

I come upon flowering saguaros.

 

Closer.

The sounds I hear are silence, then a rush of cars, then this: babies in their nest–inside a saguaro.

Apparently some baby birds are very noisy when being fed.

On the writing front, I wrote a little essay this weekend. We’ll see what happens with it. Best part: #amwriting

Make it a good week if you can figure out a way!

Leaving you with a wild baby in my yard. This is a baby kingsnake.  They are not only harmless to humans, but they kill rattlesnakes. We have been nurturing a family of kingsnakes ever since we moved here. Isn’t he cute?!

 

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Arizona, Essay, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Nonfiction, Writing

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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Update on Perry

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: I am adding this to what follows and in doing so I am putting the end at the beginning. The latest word is that Perry’s lab reports were normal, so it’s extremely unlikely that he has cardiac disease. He will get a chest xray to rule out anything obvious in his lungs that would account for fast breathing. If that is normal, we will just have to watch him. He doesn’t act sick, by the way. So in a couple of weeks he will get an xray, but I think it seems  that he must be OK. My sweet sweet boy. WHEW!

Good news!!! I think.

The gardener and my friend who is another crazy cat lady cat mom went to the vet with Perry and me. She is studying to be a vet tech, and I wanted her opinion of the visit.

Perry did not have an echocardiogram because the cardiologist said he doesn’t think his fast breathing is cardiac-related. He did bloodwork instead, including a test that he hopes will rule out cardiac disease. A few days for that to come back.

If he has no heart disease, we still don’t know what causes his rapid breathing, but at least he won’t have a serious heart diagnosis hanging over his head.

I took a video a couple of weeks ago to show his “resting” breathing rate. In 31 seconds his rate was 47!!! That is very high. So why? He was just chilling at home at the time.

Our boy was such a sweetheart. He was very docile and easygoing for the vet and for the tech.

We are calling this a possible victory at this point. When the lab results come back negative/normal, then we can have our victory dance!

Thanks for your prayers, vibes, and virtual hugs and pets for this sweet boy.

Perry trying to get Tiger to play with him

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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Writing

Jury Excuses

Last week, writer and blogger Cinthia Ritchie was called in for jury duty and tweeted about it. I was reminded of what happened to me the last time I was called in for jury duty.

Before I tell you let me say that my favorite grandmother was ALWAYS put on juries. Murders, robberies, everything. She was exactly what they wanted for every case she was ever called in for. Sweet lady who got along everyone. Educated, but not “overly” so. A “housewife” who went back to work when her grandchildren were growing up.

I sort of wanted to be like her because I thought that court cases would be good fodder for writing.

But I was always in a teaching quarter/semester when I was called, so I always had to ask for an extension.

Then one day I was able to go. And you know what we did? Sat in a big group under fluorescents (you know I can’t handle those because they are a trigger for my complicated migraines, right?) and waited

and waited

and waited.

In addition to the complicated migraines, I also have primary lymphedema. Lymphedema is an everyday thing. And it is extremely exacerbated by sitting or standing still for long periods of time. I can practically watch my feet and legs swell up if I am too still (without lying down).

If you want to know more about lymphedema, here is a great blog (The Lymphie Life), written by a good writer who suffers from lymphedema.

Around 2:30 they finally corraled us all before the judge. There were at least 100 people in the room. One by one, we had to go around and tell the judge if there was some reason we could not be on the jury. By that time I could see that I wouldn’t be able to sit still for a trial. What if it went on for a full day? Or two days? Or a week or more? I would need a hospital, and they would need an alternate.

As I waited my turn, I heard all manner of excuses, mainly dealing with work and/or children. I was embarrassed for everyone having to talk about their personal lives in front of all these strangers. When people were done with their excuses, the judge explained that he would keep their difficulties in mind but that they might end up having to serve.

When it was my turn, I stood up and pretended nobody was in the room–or I would have been too scared to say anything. Then I described lymphedema, and why I couldn’t sit still long enough to be on a jury. Keep in mind that I would have loved to be on the jury.

The gray-haired judge looked at me over his glasses and nodded. “OK, you are excused from serving jury duty. You may leave.”

I turned to go, and the entire room erupted in applause. The man next to me slapped my arm and said, “Good one!” A woman raised her voice. “That’s the best excuse I’ve ever heard to avoid jury duty.”

Before the door shut behind me, I heard the judge admonishing everyone to settle down and be quiet.

I’m filing that story in the “life is unplanned” section.

PERRY SAYS HI!!!!

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Week’s End

I might have mentioned that the gardener and I have had a lot going on in 2019 with relatives visiting and other urgent projects (non-writing, of course). I have been looking forward to April to write some poems. Ahem.

Friday I went to the doctor for the plantar fasciitis in my left foot. This is not my reconstructed ex-tumor-ridden right foot. I’ve had pain now for about 8 months, so the doctor had me get xrays. He called me Saturday and told me I need an MRI to rule out a stress fracture or whatnot as there is a weird white line or somesuch on the xray. This line has gotten bigger since a random xray I had last May. That xray was to check on my reconstruction in the right foot and they only took an image of the left for comparison.

Then Saturday afternoon my two boys lay together in a bed on the counter.

Are Perry and Felix not the cutest guys?! Felix has that expression because when Perry lays with him he always says to me, “What fresh hell is this?” a la Dorothy Parker.

I have primary lymphedema in both legs, and I use a compression pump–or am supposed to–to flush out some of the excess fluid. I hadn’t used my pump in a long time because I’m so tired at night and it takes a couple of hours, but I decided to last night. I didn’t put Perry in his room. Big mistake. While I was trapped on the machine, he started “instigating,” and he ended up knocking over our good lamp, shattering the light bulb and breaking a big chunk out of the side of the lamp. In the photo look at the right side of the lamp and you can see the white line at the start of the hole.

The gardener searched for the broken pieces of the lamp and tried piecing it together while I swept up the light bulb and made sure the floor was safe for little cat beans.

Then I hooked back up to pump my legs, while the gardener started watching TV. Less than two minutes later, he was sick. Without going into all the details, I will say he is still ill and we don’t yet know what is wrong.  Because when it rains it pours, I received two separate rejections for poems since Saturday night. Yup.

(Update: The gardener is suddenly starting to feel better!)

So I am going to close comments and leave you with a favorite poem (that I dug out to show Theresa Barker when she visited Phoenix. WordPress won’t allow correct formatting, but I think this is close enough to give you an idea of the poem.

SO I SAID I AM EZRA

 

by A.R. Ammons 1955

 

So I said I am Ezra

and the wind whipped my throat

gaming for the sounds of my voice

I listened to the wind

go over my head and up into the night

Turning to the sea I said

I am Ezra

but there were no echoes from the waves

The words were swallowed up

in the voice of the surf

or leaping over the swells

lost themselves oceanward

Over the bleached and broken fields

I moved my feet and turning from the wind

that ripped sheets of sand

from the beach and threw them

like seamists across the dunes

swayed as if the wind were taking me away

and said

I am Ezra

As a word too much repeated

falls out of being

so I Ezra went out into the night

like a drift of sand

and splashed among the windy oats

that clutch the dunes

of unremembered seas

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