Why A Kitten?

Grace visited over Christmas, and she brought her little one-eyed kitty, Pippin, with her. They were here for almost a week. When it was time for her to go back to Brooklyn, we were all sad to see them go, especially Toulouse, our five-year-old tabby.

He and Gyro play, but Gyro is a stately gentleman now, and isn’t much given to frolicking. Toulouse and Pippin played and played. When we got home from taking Grace and her kitty back to Brooklyn, our boy looked for his pal. And looked for him. It was really sad.

Frank and I started looking for a playmate for him, preferably around his age. We really didn’t want a kitten. Kittens always get adopted. Better to give an adult cat a home. So we looked. And looked. And worried about our ancient Roxie with any cat that came in as a stray, or from a hoarding situation. She is sixteen, and hasn’t had shots in a really long time. Not only is she impossible to catch, but–being as old and skinny as she is–she can’t really have shots safely anymore. As our cats are all indoor beasties, she’s fine.

We found a cat that had been in a home, and her owner died. Good compromise. We went to see her. She was not a good fit. She wouldn’t have been a pal for Toulouse, and that was our biggest reason for wanting another cat. (Though my kids will tell you it’s just my excuse…and they could be a little bit right, but not entirely.)

While we were at the AWS shelter in New Milford, we saw so many good kitties. So many. None of them, though, seemed like the right fit. I did want a cat, but only the RIGHT cat. Our balance is a good one, and I didn’t want to tip it.

And then we saw this little girl…

coralinekitten

Coraline the Kitten

 

 

It’s not just that Coraline (yes, named for the Neil Gaiman character–she was born Halloween, so we needed something appropriate) is adorable, she just FIT. Sweet disposition, passed all her vet exams, had all her shots, not old enough to have picked up something that would harm ancient Roxie. AND–this was the clincher–the people who were supposed to take her had JUST THAT MOMENT decided not to. Black cats really do have a hard time getting adopted, and isn’t that just the silliest thing you’ve ever heard?

But a KITTEN??? I haven’t had a kitten this young in about thirty years. I’ve had four month old kittens, but not ten week old kittens. Not since beloved Sassafras, kitty of wonder, have I had one this small.

And that’s exactly why. Considering my Roxie is 16, Gyro is 9 and Toulouse is 5, and considering Frank and I are 68 and 54 respectively, this is in all likelihood our last shot at having a kitten. We’re committing to ten (if we’re not so lucky) to twenty years. If not now, when?

It’s only been a little more than 24 hours, but already she’s part of the pride. Toulouse LOVES her. They play and play, but he’s so gentle. Gyro is a bit of a grumpy grandpa, but he went nose to nose with her (and she licked his nose!) and he didn’t even hiss. He lets her know what he’ll tolerate and what he won’t, while Toulouse lets her do whatever the hell she wants. It’s adorable. Big daddy. He’s so sweet.

As for Roxie, well, of course, we’ve not seen a little grey whisker of her, but that’s not really news. We rarely do. I don’t think she’s happy about the kitten, but she’s generally not happy about much. Darling girl. I do love my Roxie-cat. She’ll come around.

So, here we go. A new adventure to go with all the other new adventures the last months have seen. Fingers crossed it’s yet another good one.

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This Makes Sense Only to Me

Their worlds and words are a part

of my days and my nights and my

in-betweens. They talk to me while

I cook,

watch TV,

drive, and sleep. They give me

scenes and dialog and dilemmas; joy and sorrow and

horror. They give me

the impossible, and task me to make it plausible. At least

enjoyable.

There’s Aggie and her mason jar, and

Rosemary’s wish, the one she won’t

take back. Then there’s

the woman who runs over the not-quite-a-man, in a town

on the edge

of forever. And crusty Queenie, who

never did much right, who

never thought it quite necessary, who

might manage to do some good.

There’s Yvonne and Jacob, back in 1949,

Bonnie-Jane and Hannelore, in 1985. And still,

in stories written and always calling, Nell and Ledanora,

Mabel and Frankie and Tracy. Back and back, to

Ethen and Zihariel, Linhare and Wait. There are

warriors and queens who knock on my skull–Remember us?

I do. I do. How can I forget? You were once

my everything. The foundation of

my everything. The beginning of

Everything.

If not another book gets published, I will

write and write and write. There will be

mutiny, otherwise. Inside my head. In

dreams and waking. I’ll walk about like a character

from Wonderland, quite mad and rather glad to be so. Better

than the knowing, the abandoning, the void of a well

left to dry.

I prefer the parade never end, a continuous loop, of

characters and places already known, and those

slipping the red-ropes to join in, unannounced but

always welcome, to dance their dances and sing their songs, to

tell their tales and ask for my assistance in

ditching the parade for

broader horizons.

 

 

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My Kids

I’ve been quiet here, lately. Not because of a lack of things to say, but quiet. I’ve started several posts, and abandoned them all. They’d burn hot, and burn out.

So many feels.

I miss my sons. All three of them. It’s not just because it’s the holiday season; I miss them always. It’s more keenly felt when getting together with family, when my brothers have all their kids and grandkids gathered ’round. It makes my missing boys all the more missing, you know? Two of them I can call. I’ll even see them on Facetime or in person at some point. Life happens. Lives are lived. I don’t begrudge them a single iota. In fact, it’s what I want most for all my kids–happy lives being lived on their own terms. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss them.

And then there’s the one I won’t see, but in dreams. I won’t hear his voice on the other end of a phone. I see dean’s list darlings on friends’ social media, and I get angry. My son was one of those, too. And then–poof–he was gone. I don’t begrudge my friends their happiness, their pride. I can’t help that it makes me equal parts sad.

Those are the reasons I’ve been quiet here. Happiness makes me sad. There you have it. But I have SO MUCH, too. I love my new home, my book is doing well, and I have the most adorable monster-grands, IMO, in the world. And I have my Frankie D who loves television Christmas movies, wears a Santa hat to work, and commutes five hours a day, three days a week to keep a roof over our heads. Thirty years with this man, and I love him more every day.

I have awesome brothers, and the sweetest sister ever. I still have both my parents, going strong. My kitties keep me entertained, and rife with cuddles. I get to write. Every day. I don’t even have to wear pants if I don’t want to–which means never.

I have a son in Portland, Oregon; he makes me so proud. He calls often. He misses us. But he’s happy. I know he is. And he has the perfect girlfriend. As much as I miss him, I’m glad he went across the country to figure out who he is, what he wants, far away from all the things that broke him, once.

I have a son (never a stepson, even if he’s not much younger than I am) living his best life. Two amazing daughters that keep him constantly moving (band!) I’m so proud of him, of the man he is. I wish I got to see him more, but when I do, it’s like no time has passed.

I have a son too far beyond my own realm of existence to see or touch or hear, but while I could, we spent a lifetime of time together, as if something knew it was all we were getting, so it squooshed it all into a shorter time-span. I’m so grateful for all that time, even if it wasn’t spent under the best of circumstances. Doctors and hospitals, therapy and lonely days–I treasure all those long conversations, some of which I’ll never understand. I don’t miss the bad times, but there were plenty of good in between, and I’m especially grateful for those.

And I have my girls. My amazing daughters. My best friends. Strong, resilient, caring, accomplished women. They work so hard. I am so proud of them. I get to see them both often, and talk to them nearly every day.

I tend not to write about my (living) kids much on these pages. They read this blog, and I don’t want to make them uncomfortable. Their lives are theirs, not mine to wax poetic over. But it’s the holiday season, and I’m feeling melancholy and hopeful and happy. And sad. I want them to know, though their brother always screamed loudest, though it might seem otherwise, he’s not always utmost on my mind. Quite the contrary, in fact. They’re my everything.

So, here’s to the happy times, to the sad times, to being able to do what you love, with the people you love most. Here’s to good friends, good times, and another year spent on this blue marble floating in space. And here’s to my kids–all five of them–and love so far beyond measure, it makes me dizzy to contemplate.

Joyous Solstice!

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Pockets

It happened just yesterday, in

a box store, I

whisked through the aisles, wanting

to be out of there quickly, and

slipped into a time pocket.

It only lasted a moment, long

enough to steal my breath, to

make my eyes water, to

send me back in time. Smoked salmon,

of all things. I’d

buy it for him, even though it was

expensive, and

he’d eat it all in one sitting, because…

just because. I

slipped into that time pocket, I

reached for it, my

hand snagged on a thread that

pulled me back, out of the pocket, to

the now where he’s not here to

eat the whole package

in one sitting, while

I watch indulgently on.

 

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An Interesting Observation

I got to be the guest of honor at another Senior Book Club yesterday, out in Stratford, CT. I love these groups. The insight, the wisdom, the open and genuine comments, questions, and understandings. They make me know I did a good job writing people their age in The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses). I get them! And they get me.

One thing that has cropped up time and again is a certain character’s uncanny cleverness, her ability to think and act quickly, her calculation. It doesn’t seem believable, or even feasible that a woman of her age and experience could come up with the plans she does, in the time she does it in.

I find this infinitely interesting, and slightly disheartening.

When I create a character or situation–unless it’s fantasy–I make sure there’s at least one instance I know of to give credence to a character trait, or a circumstance. There’s an adage that goes something like, “No matter what you can think up, there’s been weirder/sadder/horrific…er.” In the case of this character, I’ve known young women as clever, as calculated, and as quick as my character. They exist, most certainly, and outside of literature and movies.

We have no issue believing in Hermione Granger’s brillaince, but she’s from a fantasy world. Lisbeth Salander (Dragon Tattoo), but she’s a psycho. How about Young Sherlock Holmes? Hmmm…why is it so hard to believe? Is it because she’s female? Beautiful? Young? Too otherwise ordinary? All of the above?

I painted my character (Tressa) as a sheltered southern belle who looked and acted–outwardly–as one would expect. But I showed her doing things outside of that facade. In her background, she went to college when women of her place in society typically did so only as a “husband major.” She not only got accepted into college, but into a major largely reserved for men. She went out in search of her brother the moment she came into her inheritance at twenty-one, against her family’s wishes–something she’d been planning and working towards since she was little more than a child. Before she ever stepped foot on the page, she manipulated her circumstances, and the people she was supposedly obedient to, without anyone being the wiser. By these things alone, her cleverness should have been evident. When she does all she does in the body of the book, it comes off–to some–as unbelievable that a young woman her age could not only think it all up, but pull it off.

There are other questions that always come up–What actually happened to Enzo? is a big one. The question of my clever, cunning Tressa is one, I suppose, that strikes me as a surprising thing to question at all.

It makes me wonder how many others thought the same thing, and why. To be clear, I never have an issue with any nits or picks a reader has–all opinions are valid, whether or not I agree. It’s their take on things, from their perspectives. When I get a question, or read a review that gives me better understanding into minds that don’t think the way mine does, I’m truly grateful. It’s all fodder folks! All fodder.

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I can’t seem to let it go

I’ve started this entry three times now, and can’t seem to get the words right, so I’ll just get to the heart of it–Myrtle Beach is one of my favorite places to be. It’s the location of countless good times with loved ones, days on the beach, seashells and sand and shopping and delicious food I don’t have to cook. And it pulls out my sorrow like no other place on earth.

It’s the last place I actually spent time with Chris, before his brutal fall into depression. He was happy. On top of the world. He’d just moved out on his own, was working his dream job, and was generally looking forward with confidence. Or so I thought. I don’t think Chris ever fooled himself, even if he fooled everyone else. It was always there, waiting, and he knew it. But that’s not what I’m here for.

We had a great week, that April of 2015. The weather kind of sucked, but we sat on the beach anyway, went to the hot tubs, the pool. We took him to the aquarium, not realizing it was kind of for little kids. It was ridiculously fun anyway. When the week was done, we took him home. Little more than a month later, he’d crashed completely. He quit his job, left his apartment, and came home. And then he was gone.

Myrtle Beach is a bittersweet place for me now. I always have fun. I always look forward to it. It’s still one of my favorite places to be. Yet I don’t get through a day without memory falling and grief slapping me across the face so hard my eyes tear. The billboard for the aquarium, a chilly day at the beach, the New Balance store at the outlet mall–kapow.

I had Gracie all to myself for a whole week this time, for the first time since…I can’t even say, and it was amazing beyond words. She makes things better, my girl. And yet I couldn’t help being sad sometimes. I tried not to show it, but she always knew.

One night, at the tail end of the week, I dreamed of Chris. We were in town for some big event, lots of people all around, and I spotted him getting a drink at a water fountain. My mouth dropped open. I called his name. He turned, smiled and came my way. There was an air of impatience about him, but he pulled me into those massive arms and held me so tight. Chris had this thing, he’d hug tighter, a beat longer than anticipated. This time, I held him just as long, just as tight. “I knew you couldn’t leave me,” I told him. He only smiled, let me go, and headed back off into the crowd.

He knew I was sad. He knew why. And even though he’s off on  his bear-dreaming adventures, he came back to hug me. His turtle.

I write this with tears in my eyes and the weight of his hug still lingering across my shoulders. I wasn’t going to record it here, but like my sorrow called him back from his travels, his hug led me here until I wrote it all down. I guess he wanted credit for his long trip back.

That’s my boy.

Myrtle Beach

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The Whirlwinds of Life

Life has been a bit of a whir since June. We sold the house, The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) released. We moved. I’ve done author events with several book clubs and library groups. We went down the shore with our daughter and her family, and some friends. Frankie D and I went up to Bar Harbor, where I did an author talk/signing at the Jesup Memorial Library (gorgeous library, amazing town.) Just this past week, my son and his girlfriend came in from Portland for a (always too brief!) visit. They flew out this morning.

In between there were reviews, and lunches with friends; a wedding, family gatherings, and, of course, setting up my new home. Writing has been sporadic at best. For me–a writer who has written most every weekday, 9-4 since 1994–it’s been unsettling, to say the least. Now, next week, I head down to Myrtle Beach, a trip I’m really looking forward to, but it’s another week of no writing, making this shortened week less than productive, too.

Or is it?

I started a new novel back in April. There are two storylines, one that takes place in 2009, the other in 1947. The stories link through two characters–young in 1947, old in 2009. It’s been a struggle to get the two storylines to play nice. I love them both, they just didn’t seem to want to fit together.

And that’s because they really didn’t. Maybe it was all the upheaval, the enforced time away from the writing of it, but this novel proved to me today that it’s actually two. One’s not a sequel to the other–they’re entirely separate novels.

I’d written over 100K words in two and a half months, and the original book was nowhere near done. In trying to integrate the novels, they were both losing something of their voice, their heart. Now I have two novels in progress, and I adore them. The 1947 novel–Thirty Days Dancing at the Edge of the World–comes first. Then St. Simon by the Sea will get its turn. The novels still connect via those two characters, but the connection won’t alter the storylines in the slightest. It’s my hope that, if a reader reads both, they’ll take on an added depth. We’ll see. Maybe I’m just spouting nonsense.

One of the reasons I decided to post this is due to a question I get, every time I do a Q&A with a reading/writing group: Do you ever get writer’s block?

I’ve come to understand that what I experienced with this book that ended up being two, and pretty much every book I have ever written, is what some consider “writer’s block.” I never quite realized that until recently, and I think it’s because I never let it actually “block” me. I chip away, come at it from different angles, and I’m not afraid to shred it all to bits. It makes me get more creative, and tenacious. Writers who hit these walls and let it stop them call it writer’s block. I call it…something else.

Writing can happen in a wave of euphoric genius of putting words on a page that we never actually remember thinking; or it can be the above chipping, shredding frustration. Sometimes, we have to work for our art. No pain, no gain? Yeah, that works.

So, no–I never suffer writer’s block. Never have. Never will. Because if I ever come to a point wherein I won’t put in the necessary effort to get past it, it’ll be because I’m done writing. Period.

 

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A Dream, On Waking

This house feels like home

Like it’s where I’ve been all along. All

these years, all this life.

Passing strange, the log house and

all that happened there was

a dream I’m just waking from. Like, “Whew! I’m so glad it wasn’t real!

But it was.

Of course it was.

Yet that feeling has me in thrall right now, and

I’m not entirely sure

I want to disabuse it.

It feels a bit like betrayal,

on so many levels,

My dream. My home. My son’s painful life, and oblivious death.

A dream, a dream, a dream. And now,

I’m awake. Now,

it’s a bit of solace

I’d like to hold onto. I need

to hold onto.

*

All the curtains are hung, pictures,

in place, word art, (Q: What is a wall without a quote on it? A: A blank page!)

stuck to walls. My magic. My sparkle. My home.

The dream wasn’t all good, or

all bad. It simply was, and now it’s in the past. I don’t

long for it; how could I long for such sorrow?

Like a dream, let it fade into something less frightening, less

rending. Let the joy rise up and out, let it

follow me home.

BRAIN-BENEFITS-OF-DREAMING

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I Can Be Happy Here

Years ago, when Frank and I weren’t quite empty-nesters yet, we pulled into Oak Meadows on a lark, just to see what it was like. Frank fell in love instantly. I didn’t. I make NO judgement call on communities of cookie-cutter houses with vinyl siding! It just wasn’t me. I lived in a log house on the river, in the mountains, nothing but coyotes and deer and bear and great blue heron for neighbors. I tucked gardens here and there; the lawn was like green velvet; autumn blazed in the red/orange/amber of maples in New England. Inside, vast, multi-colored (burgundy, amber, yellow, blue, scarlet, pink, mauve) walls covered in murals and word art, dinosaur prints and fairies. Tucked into every nook and cranny, something new to see. My log house was the kind of place you could come to a dozen times and find something new, something fun or funny, adorable or kind of creepy. It was always Halloween, always Christmas. Somewhere.

It was a LOT of work. In the end, too much work. For those and a myriad of other reasons, it was time to move on.

We checked out Oak Meadows again. When we pulled in, my instant reaction was, “Nope, nope, nope! Can’t do it!” A week or so later, Frank said, “Let’s just go into the model and see.”

I walked into the model. It was warm, inviting, and obviously EASY. Beige walls. BEIGE! Not a color on my spectrum. But a switch flipped in me. I didn’t want “different and super-cool,” because “different and super-cool” needed to be maintained. I wanted smaller. House. Gardens. Rooms. No more high ceilings we needed a 30 foot ladder to clean twice a year. No more log walls that collected dust. No more rooms (and rooms and rooms and rooms) that went unused. I wanted efficiency. I wanted easy. I wanted it to look nice without me having to work so hard at it.

There’s no lawn for Frank to mow, only common ground that gets mowed for us. The pool is just down the hill, and we don’t have to maintain it. My garden–that will be taken care of for me, should I so choose–is all of about 9 x 9. I can have the profusion of flowers I love without it requiring days of planting, weeding, watering on a weekly basis.

I wanted Oak Meadows.

I didn’t think I could ever be happy in a community of cookie-cutter, vinyl sided homes. Never in a million years. But I am. I love this place, top to bottom. I love the lifestyle it affords us, the freedom.

I miss the woods, the river, the trees and the wildlife, but I got to have it. I had the showplace house people came into and stood in awe. The reality of upkeep made leaving it do-able. That dream was had, skewed, and given up for good. As a wise young man once told me, when I felt terrible about giving up my Jeep Wrangler, a vehicle I’d dreamed of having all my life, “Dreams change, Mom.”

Some people dream and never attain their aspirations. I’ve never been one of those people. I’m lucky, I know, but I work hard for the dreams I’ve made come to pass. Yet, sometimes, the dream changes. Sometimes, it’s changed for me. Leaving the house on the river for this townhouse in the woods was a little of both.

I can be happy here. I am happy here. A year ago, I’d never have believed it should anyone have told me where I’d be right now, and glad to be so.

“Dreams change, Mom.”

Yes, they do.

Oak Meadows (model shown, not mine.)

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Some other beginning’s end

Know what happened on moving day? As the guys were loading the truck? Our bear, the one I’ve never seen but Frank has on several occasions, came wallumping out of the woods behind the house, down the driveway, and across the street.
A bear.
If that wasn’t Chris sending us off on this leg of life’s adventure, I don’t know what it was.
 
I teetered on the brink of breaking down in the days prior to and just after the move. When I felt the sorrow welling, I pushed it down. Not now. Nope. Can’t do it. And I didn’t. It made me feel guilty, but I couldn’t leave that house if I let it overwhelm me. So I didn’t.
 
The house stopped being mine when my stuff was packed away. I detached from it, couldn’t wait for moving day. I’m so ready for a different lifestyle, simple, less work. Neighbors for the first time in nearly sixteen years. When I left, I thought I was going back to pick up a few things (like my cat) so I didn’t say good-bye. I didn’t walk room to room, remembering. Making peace. I just drove away. And I didn’t go back. That upset me, at first, but I’ve since come to realize it was better not to leave that house with that kind of emotional cloud hanging over me.
 
Leaving behind my log house on the river, in the back of beyond, didn’t quite suffice to convince my heart to tag along. It’s still there in the bricks and the boards, in the gardens no longer mine. In Jamie’s magnolia, Gracie’s cherry tree, Chris and Scott’s apple trees. Mixed into the roots of the tree where we buried Chris’ ashes. Not all of it, but a piece of it. I suppose that’s the way of such things; when you’ve lived and loved and lost so much in a place, you can’t just close the door and be done. It’s never done, and I’m okay with that. I really am.

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