National Poetry Writing Month

I’ve just been alerted to a thing. That thing is National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMo. My goal is to write a poem or song every day for the month of April. I’m doing it to hack my writing and get some fresh air into my mind.

I’m not going to be posting full pieces here, because hopefully some of these poems will be good enough to submit for publication, but I’ll share subjects or hurdles or big shiny win days here. Just to keep myself accountable. Today’s poems was from the POV of the witch who tried to eat Hansel & Gretl. It was basically The Twinkie Defense told in stanza.

Now I’m hungry for gingerbread.

Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash

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Goodbye, Old Lady KoE

Her name was KoE. It was mispronounced and mangled by vet clinic office staff for the first 15 years of her life. For some reason, when we moved to Ventura, everybody started saying it right. Say it like “Joey” and it stood for Kitten of Evil. Our little KoE died on December 3, 2018 at the age of 17.

This is going to be my eulogy for KoE, because she deserves to have her memory preserved, because I did it for Munchy and Weasel when they passed, because there are so many little things about her that I don’t want to forget. She was a very special cat. She was the most gorgeous cat and she always made me laugh.

In July of 2001, Seen and I took 3 of our neighborhood stray cats to a TNR clinic in Pasadena. When we picked them up that afternoon, one of the organizers told us about the kittens who had been spayed and neutered that day. She said they were feral, so would go home with a foster but would have a hard time in life. The little black girl was particularly at risk, since people never adopt black cats, the woman said. Seen decided we should bring the black and white kitten home. KoE was still unconscious from the anesthesia when she got her name. I was convinced our two resident cats, Weasel and Munchy, would think she was a kitten of evil. The name stuck. (Weasel didn’t like KoE, Munchy didn’t care either way.)

KoE was definitely feral. She was a two pound, two-month-old bundle of fear and anger. There were fleas still hopping off her tiny kitten body as she struggled awake from the sedative. I gave her a gentle bath to get the fleas off and a few drops of blood trickled from her spay site. I held her in the towel, close to me and looking in her eyes I said “You better survive little one, because I love you already.” She was so full of piss and vinegar and attitude. She glared back at me, trying to murder me with her eyes.

We placed her in the bathroom, with a ticking clock, a place to hide, warm blankets, food, water, litter and a teddy bear just about the same size as she was. She would carry that teddy bear around by its scruff and sleep on it for comfort.

It took her a few months to come around to domestic life. She would hide in the back of Seen’s closet and if we got close she would start a high pitched whine that would slowly lower in octaves until it was a deep growl. Which just cracked me up. At one point she crawled into the hole in the back of Seen’s speaker cabinet, causing massive panic when we couldn’t find her, only to locate her fluff and claws with an arm into the speaker.

I would play with her morning, noon, and night, holding her on my chest before we went to sleep and saying “I love you, you weirdo.” gently until she finally learned to trust me. It took 15 more years until she would start to trust Seen. She was a tough nut to crack.

But behind that feral fear was a genuinely funny creature. I would pick her up and she would roll with her back into my arms and stretch as long as she could get, her toes spread wide. She would boss me around, yelling at me from across my office until I followed her (and her swinging belly floop) to the sunshine puddle in the living room, where she would flop and pull my hand to her face – basically petting herself with my hand. I would hear her YOWLING from the other room in the middle of the night and run out in a panic to see if she was injured, but she was just carrying around a furry toy. When she saw me, she’d slowly open her mouth and let the toy drop and then give me a tiny kitten mew.

KoE was a reluctant therapy cat. When I was feeling blue, she would curl up next to me on the couch and put her big back feet against my butt. If Seen and I got into a fight, and I started to get loud or excited, she would hop up next to me and tap my arm, yelling at me to stop fighting.

She had the best fluffy fur, with toe floofs. She was black, but a little bit burgundy and she had tiny flecks of black in her white belly. She had one black fleck over her heart. She had polka dots on her toes and a black nose. But she also had the filthiest ears. I would clean them at least once a week.

The few times we took her to the vets were because of her oddball behavior. The first time, 3 year old KoE woke up screaming in the middle of the afternoon and had been so scared by a dream that she peed herself, clear through a comforter and three blankets on the bed. The next time she had kept throwing up little orange bits, we couldn’t figure out what it was, thinking it was some weird tumor. Vet said it was feathers from the toy we left out. Girl was eating the feather.

She loved me, talking to me, telling me stories, looking for love when she needed it, but still reserved. She never was one to sit on my lap or sleep in bed with me. For one thing, HE was in there. I’m convinced she would have preferred a place for just the two of us. Where she and I would talk and eat tuna.

Her kidneys started failing about 3 years ago, but it was manageable. This past June, she had an episode where walking was difficult for a few minutes and she was yelling in pain. The ER vet said her kidneys were getting worse, so we began fluid treatments at home. Then in October, the vet said she was in heart failure. The treatment for kidney failure and heart failure are contradictory. The kidneys want more fluid, the heart wants less fluid. We knew our old lady was entering the hospice phase of her life.

It doesn’t make it much easier. The last week was tough, she was KoE, but she was also losing her mind and her body. And the last weekend, she went downhill quickly. She couldn’t rest. She needed comforting constantly. She didn’t know what to do with herself. She was yelling at the toilet and the washing machine. Her kidneys started to shut down. Watching her, we knew there really was no option. She needed help out of her pain.

KoE laid down next to me in bed that last morning and she gave me one of her long rambling purr/meows. I always loved those, they reminded me of when lightning lights up the clouds and never strikes down.

I called the home visit vet as soon as they opened, they came out as soon as they could. I petted her and told her I was there and that I loved her. And that I will love her forever. She died in her favorite spot on the couch.

I’m relieved she is out of pain, and it is so strange without her here. I tried to take as many pictures and videos as I could those last few months, but it’s not the same. It’s not her. She was beautiful and weird, and she loved me. Now she is gone.

Is Grandma Henry’s Ghost Trying to Tell Me Something?

40298070_10155914912863460_7689007357044457472_oYou guys. I think I’m being haunted by my paternal grandmother. Grandma Henry died when I was 8 yrs old, 40 years ago. I inherited this music box bracelet. Wind it up and it plays Fur Elise. It’s been untouched in a jewelry box for at least 5 years, until last night.

10 p.m. husband and 2 cats and I crawl into bed. We all hear a couple of weird musical notes. I check my phone to see if any alerts are going off. Nothing, but a few minutes later we hear a few more notes. The cats stare at the dresser with the jewelry box.

It dawns on me what the music probably is. So the husband grabs the jewelry box and puts it on the bed. I open it and pull the bracelet out. It doesn’t chime until I pull the little button that turns it on. The jewelry box lid slams down. Cats sprint off the bed.

Husband thinks the lid slammed because he leaned on the mattress and shook the box. I put the music box back into the jewelry box and put everything back on the dresser. 2 seconds later, couple of creepy musical notes.

Grandma Ruth Henry – 1946

Weird thing is, I was thinking about Grandma’s mother today. She died when Grandma was 7 years old. She had headaches and was always in bed. I’ve been suffering through a symptom wave from the neurological damage I suffered earlier this year from medication. The worst wave I’ve had for months.

I was wondering if the symptoms I’m having were similar to my Grandma’s mother. I don’t buy into woo, but… Guys, I am going to get my brain checked ASAP. Wish me luck with Grandma’s ghost.

Planning the SAHR (Stay At Home Retreat)

When am I ever going to find the time to write?

The answer is: Never. Time isn’t just sitting around like a lost Chapstick. You gotta make the time to write. Most weekends I promise myself that I’ll write, but only get 30 min here and there between “I have to wash this” or “Time to go pick up food and things” or “Yeah, I deserve a nap.” When I sit down to write, I find easy ways to distract myself with Twitter or other nonsense.

Going on a writing retreat is a great way to disconnect, change up the scenery, get your mind out of your chores and daily life and get writing.

Welp, I don’t have the funds or the mobility to go anywhere so I decided to create my own retreat…at home. This is the first time I’m really putting a plan in place, so fingers crossed that I’ll stay focussed and not end up just mopping the floors to distract myself from writing.

I think the key here is to have a plan, which involves a schedule. That, and a strong belief that I can stay focused (plus a reward system) = successful writing weekend.

In case you’d like to join me, here’s the plan!

Night Before – Planning Stuff:

After work @ 4 p.m. finish any chores you absolutely have to get done before Monday
(grocery shopping, laundry, cat related cleaning, cooking)

This is a good time to make sure you’re stocked up on all the food/beverages you’re going to need. I’m going to get a cupcake and some fancy cheese.

– Now is the time. Shut down any/all social media apps. Let your mind get bored this weekend. –

7 p.m. – Write out goals for the weekend.

  • You are allowed to select TWO projects to focus on.
  • You need to have a word count goal for each project.
  • During the weekend you can switch between these two projects ONLY. If any new ideas come up, jot down the idea and go back to one of the projects you’ve chosen.
  • You don’t have to hit the word counts for both projects, just one. If you hit both you’ll get a bonus reward!

7:30 p.m. – Vision board or color sketch of how this weekend or success looks visually to you.
8:30 p.m. – Plan your outfits for Saturday and Sunday. I know… but if you were going away, you’d have those packed. This will clear up time and mental energy of making choices.
9:30 p.m. – I’m going to bed because I’m delicate. Y’all can start on your projects if you want.

Day 1 – Full Day:

8 a.m. – Yoga, walk/run, or whatever exercise works for you. Meditate on positive focus for the day.
8:45 a.m. – lazy breakfast, animal chores (aka, feed cats and clean the litter, the only chores you’re doing today. I don’t care how dirty the bathroom is.)
9:30 a.m. – Set up your writing area with all your stuff: Notebook, Laptop, Beverage, Snacks, Music, blanket, fan, etc…
9:45 a.m.Writing prompt for fun. Read the poem In Praise of My Bed. Make a list of 4 inanimate things you love. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write about one (or from the thing’s POV). Tell us what season it is. Include all 5 senses.  If you don’t know what to write about just write the name of the thing over and over and over until something sparks.
10 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Writing time! PICK ONE of your projects and stick with it for 3 hours.
(Did you stick to one project the whole time? You get a cupcake! [or a pear if you wanna stay healthy])
1-1:45 p.m. – Eat lunch (keep it easy with a turkey/tomato sammich). Go outside for at least 10 minutes. Feel the sun and the air on your skin. Notice any smells (cows? roses? neighbor’s motorcycle?)
1:45-3:30 p.m. – Writing time! Stick with one project for the next 1.75 hours.
3:30-3:35 p.m. – DANCE BREAK (or song break, or skipping break) just get some movement going. I am personally going to be doing interpretive dance to Careless Whisper while lip syncing. IDC.
3:35-4 p.m.– snack time (v8 & string cheese) and cat snuggles. Tell your cat how your progress is going, or just ask her how her toe beans are feeling today.
4-6 p.m. – Writing Time: Back to that project. Got some new ideas/life?
6-7 p.m. Creative cook time – I’m making these sweet strawberry drop biscuits. Have a simple dinner lined up – I’m planning on ravioli/tortellini with some wilted spinach and red sauce. (or if I met my goals I’m ordering Pad Thai!)
7:30 – 8 p.m. – Sketch one of your projects characters or scenes.
8 – 9 p.m. – Write a leetle bit more.
9 – 9:15 p.m. – Brag on yourself, what did you get done today! It doesn’t even MATTER if it was a little or a lot. Way to go!!
9 p.m.Bedtime yoga – relax little bear! Have a glass of wine if ya want!

REWARD for meeting word count on DAY ONE:

Day 2 – Full Day:

8 a.m. – Yoga, walk/run, or whatever exercise works for you. Meditate on positive focus for the day.
8:45 a.m. – lazy breakfast, animal chores
9:30 a.m.Writing prompt for fun. Archeologists have recently discovered a preponderance of artifacts in a “lost” indigenous city in Southeastern KS. Read through the article and put yourself in that city, at any point in time (past, now, future). Set a timer for 10 minutes and write about that experience. Tell us what season it is. Include all 5 senses.  If you don’t know what to write about just write “I don’t know what to write” over and over and over until something sparks.
10 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Writing time! PICK ONE project and stick with it for 2 hours.
Noon – 1 p.m. – Lunch (leftover raviolis) and long walk time. Notice the world around you with all your senses. Let your thoughts wander where they naturally want to go. Breathe.
1 -3:45 p.m. – Writing time again. Focus on one project. Be aware of your word count goal for today and the weekend.
Did you stick with one project this whole time? That deserves a bigger treat! I’m gonna get a new pair of shoes!
If you didn’t stick with one project, if you bounced around between different ideas, but are still hanging in there, writing and not checking you Twitter-Insta-Facebook-Email-Texts-Smoke Signals, then you still deserve a treat. Have some of that fancy cheese with some apple slices.
3:45 – 4:15 p.m. – Amy snack time! (strawberries and protein shake) Chase the cats around again.
4:15 – 6 p.m. – Writing time. Last writing time of the SAHR. Don’t worry if you don’t get all the words down. Relax into the story and enjoy the last few hours of focused writing time.
6 p.m. – Pour yourself some wine or tea and review the goals you set for yourself on Friday. How did you do? Any forward movement is progress. Even if you got distracted, did you get anything down? Nicely done.

Now think long term. Where do you want to go with your writing. Think big! (or small, whatever suits you.) Write out 3 long term goals for yourself. If you want to write out stuff that isn’t writing related, do it. I’m not looking over your shoulder. Make yourself happy!!

REWARD for meeting word count for the SAHR WEEKEND!
One writing class! I’m going with:

Holy Trouts! You did it! A whole Stay At Home Retreat© and you got some writing done. Congrats. If you did any of this with me, whether it was the same weekend I did it or not, let me know if any of this worked for you. I’m definitely gonna let you know if I succeeded or dropped my balls.

PS: If you met your writing goals, drop me a note and I’ll send you a little something through the USPS. 🙂

Good Hike – Bad Advice

 

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The trail seemed foggy on the whole idea too.

Went for a short hike this morning. It’s a pretty popular trail, and we got there late-ish at 11, so the path was crowded.

On our way down we heard a woman, calling to another family that was about 10 yards up the path. She was standing mid-trail with her tween-aged son standing next to her. Her voice carried as she shared her parenting advice:

“We tell our kids that if something is bothering you, tell us with your body, not your words.”

The family 10 yards above, who may or may not have heard her, followed the statement with an awkward silence and then kept walking.

The woman repeated herself “Use your body, not your words.” very loudly, directed to her son this time. I kept moving.

Is this “express with your body” a new parenting trend I’ve missed out on? Since I don’t have any kids, pretty sure I missed all the trends. But, I am an Aunt and Great Aunt, and I have always heard every parent I’ve ever met say “Use your words.”

The woman’s weird advice stuck in my brain like an unsolvable puzzle. Is there an advocacy for interpretive dance for kids to express their displeasure?

Then I realized maybe she’s just been parenting in the same style as The OA. Maybe she’s trying to travel between dimensions, or do the thing they do in the season finale that I’m not going to tell you about because you might watch the show someday.

I’m absolutely never going to hassle anybody about their parenting choices (see: I’m not a parent.) I just want to see the results of her methods.

phyllis

Things I Will Do Tomorrow (A Procrastinators Lament)

Yarr…I be writing.

Hi – Since I’ve been procrastinating for months about posting. AND, since I’m currently editing some stories to submit around. AND, as I was looking for one particular story that fit one particular theme call, I found a bunch of old poems I’d written. Some of my poems are really bad (trust me), but I figured I’d post this procrastinate-y list poem I wrote years ago. Because if there is one thing I do on a daily basis, it’s procrastinating. So it’s still accurate.

Things I will do tomorrow (a procrastinators lament)

Eat Right

Exercise

Clean out the fridge

Mop the floors

Vacuum the couch

Buy new cute shoes

Sew that button onto Seen’s shirt

Put away the last load of laundry

Meet Marinda for lunch

Brush the cats

Get a moisturizing mask for my hair

Keep going on the new business

Call my mother

Get the roof fixed

Get the fence fixed

Win the lottery

Bake peanut butter cookies

Buy more peanut butter

Start a family

Sing my baby to sleep

Sit in the sun

Smile at a grumpy old lady

E-mail the manager of the health club about the dumbbell issue

Buy tickets to Hawaii

Make funny t-shirts

Put pictures into the frames for the bedroom

Hang the pictures in the bedroom

Upload photos to Zazzle

Write out my Christmas cards

Put up Christmas décor

Hang inspirational window treatments

Cure AIDS – one $50 check at a time

Save Darfur

Protest the war

Save the children

Protect the animals

Help the environment

Recycle

Order new recycle bin from the city

Take out the trash

Trim the roses

Smell the roses

Pick tomatoes

Make a marinara sauce

Sort through closet

Sort through jewelry

Sort through shed

Drive to goodwill with clothing, jewelry, and etc donation

Do daily write

Finish writing Christmas carol

Research early 20th century High Plains culture

Donate to American Indian college fund

Take a St. Johns Wort

Buy more vitamins

Buy more lingerie

Write a love note to seen

Write a book about love

Buy more paper

Finish reading overdue library book

Take books back to library

Pay library fines

Save the cheerleader

Save the world

Cancel cable TV

Buy classical music

Change my attitude

Meditate

Take a nap

You can tell how old this is without even knowing me because there is a thinly veiled reference to the show Heroes, which must have been from the first season because I will NOT admit to watching it after that. There’s also a thing about having lunch with Marinda and eating peanut butter, neither of which I’ve done for at least a handful of years.

(Yo Marinda…let’s have lunch…just not anything with peanut butter because I’m allergic now.)

Maybe I’m not writing because everything on the news is kind of a screaming dumpster fire right now and I don’t write about current events. It’s just that everything else seems insipid. (I know it isn’t.)

I’m off to not procrastinate editing stories on chubby monsters and tattle tale hearts. Then I’m going to do put up a quick chapbook of poems I wrote after Dad died, because some of those need to live outside of my Dropbox. Look for them soon (or, ya know, in 5 years) on Amazon!

 

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This is from Sponge Bob. I was planning on making a graphic, but…

 

 

Aunt Amy’s Comprehensive Guide to Being an Adult

13568835_10153528503316021_2201300065599682128_oSo, you’ve reached a milestone; graduation from someplace, 16th, 18th, 21st, or 45th birthday, you’re moving into your own place, finally buying your own shoes, any of these are a big deal. It’s time to be a grown up, or at least do what the other grown ups do and try to act like a grown up. It’s not always easy, so I wanted to give you a few pointers on how to fake being an adult.

Before we get into this, you should know that none of us know what we’re doing. There are lots of people in charge of things who trained to know how to do those particular things, and they surround themselves with other people who are trained in different aspects of those things, but really we’re all pretending to be adults. Some of us are just much more confident in the delivery (and some of us really relish that we’re getting to play dress up as adults and still act like kids).

If you don’t get this whole grown-up thing correct every now and then, you’re not alone. Just get up tomorrow and put on your best adult costume and keep on pretending, until you practice so much at acting mature, eventually you start to believe it. Kind of like flying, you can’t fly if you don’t believe that you can (and if you’re thinking “well, nobody can fly” that’s just the kind of attitude we need to get rid of.)

Important things to know; the list:

Benice1.Be nice to other people.

This is really hard sometimes. Most current adults fail at this a LOT.

It’s super easy to focus on the tough stuff in your life, and only your life, and take it out on the world. Yes, life can be a complete PITA (Pain In The Ass), but don’t make it tougher on everybody else.

Don’t be cranky to the grocery store clerk. Don’t yell at the mailman. Don’t hurumph your way through your job today. Because, and this is SUPER IMPORTANT, those people you are not nice to, they might be having a crummy day too. Stuff might be happening behind the scenes as they pretend to be a grown-up, and it’s stuff you probably don’t even consider. Go ahead and be the nice part of their day, or at minimum, not pile on their stress.

Even if their life is peachy fuzzy, do you really want to be the jackass who makes them have a crappy day? The answer is “NO”…no you don’t want to be that jackass.

To summarize: Pull your head out of your ass. Think about how your actions affect other people. Be kind.

2. Always pay the rent on time.

Actually, always pay all your bills on time, if you are able. This is just an extension of being nice. There are people who work for the companies you owe money to. They need you to pay for what you’ve used, so they can pay for stuff they’ve used.

This one can be tough sometimes too, particularly if you’re having a rough time making a living. Talk to the people who you owe money to, payment plans are usually an option. And don’t say “The check is in the mail.” or “I’ll be getting the money to you next week.” unless it’s the truth. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Be honest.

First step, be honest with yourself. This one is pretty easy to start, but it gets tough. Next time you feel crappy doing something, ask yourself why. Don’t sugar coat it, or give yourself a million excuses. Be honest.

For example: Why am I yelling at everybody in traffic, or why did I start crying just because the damn strawberry jam jar wouldn’t open?

  1. Everybody sucks, everything sucks. Nothing is ever going to be good again
  2. I didn’t get enough sleep and only ate Cheetos for dinner last night
  3. I’m stressed out because I can’t figure out why the dog is sick, or how I’m going to make my paycheck last until the end of the month, and it’s weighing on me.
  4. I’m just having a crabby day. It’s just emotions or hormones. It’ll pass. I’m taking the day off and watching crappy Rom-Coms on Netflix.

After that, be honest with other people. You can be gentle and honest at the same time.  (This does not mean you have carte blanche to be a total dick and just spout whatever random thought crosses your mind. Remember item #1.)

4. In regards to people who are different than you.

That is literally everybody. Do NOT judge anybody’s life choices, unless they are hurting themselves or others (human, animal, planet…but not plants, some of us can’t help the fact that we can’t garden AT ALL [I’m sorry beautiful, purple daisies!]).

We all grew up in different places, different influences, different financial backgrounds, etc… Everybody is different from you.

You are a unique snowflake, they are a unique grain of sand. Every, single, solitary, soul on this planet is different. You will not get along with everybody, but try as hard as you can, to live and let live. Help those who ask, or who need help but can’t ask. But do not ever judge. Every. Body. is. Different. And that is a good thing.

5. Dating.

Pay close attention to your adult dating choices. They should adhere to rule #1. If they do that, you’re an awesomely lucky dater and have won the dating lottery.

If they adhere to most of these guidelines, all on their own, without ever knowing about them, marry that fucker. If marriage is your thing.

6. Listening to other people’s rules listicle.

Guidelines are not hard and fast rules. If somebody tells you something is 100% right, they aren’t paying attention to guideline #4 (everybody is different). Latch onto what works for you, let go of what doesn’t. That doesn’t make you bad, or the listicle maker stupid, it just means every journey through life is different.

grave7. Life is short.

I know it doesn’t feel like it when you’re 18 or 21 or buying your own shoes for the first time, but it is. Enjoy your life. Enjoy the moment. Don’t worry too much. Just be nice and enjoy stuff.