Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Busy, busy

Taking the cats on a short road trip this weekend to visit my mom, which probably qualifies me as batshit looney. I've never really traveled with cats before, but both of these guys are laid-back enough that they should be OK. I hope. (Ack!) I generally like highway driving; I put on music and just kind of zone out for a while and work on just being in the moment. It's nice. Will probably not be blogging much, if at all, for the next few days.

My poetry group's annual reading is a week from Saturday. I don't yet know what I will be reading or, more importantly, what I will be wearing. I guess I'll work it all out one evening next week. For those who may be in or near Bloomington, the reading is Saturday, October 8 at 8 pm in the Rose Firebay at the John Waldron Arts Center downtown; $5 general admission ($4 students/seniors, $3 children). Comment or email me if you want more details or anything.

The week following the reading, I will be on vacation from work. I'm not going anywhere, but a week of peace and quiet, solitude, cats and books sounds quite like heaven to me right now. I feel like I've been on a bit of a rollercoaster these past few months: the absolute high of the workshop in Provincetown at the beginning of July, a mad rush of writing, financial difficulties and dentists and mechanics and vets, Mudpuppy's death, hurricanes and horrible news, adopting Lotus. I would like to step off the rollercoaster for a few days. It would be nice if I could get some writing done, and maybe even make some progress on getting a manuscript put together, but right now I will be content with peace and quiet and geting some reading done.

The kitten is working out ridiculously well -- he and the big wooly-mammoth cat spend hours every day playing tag, hide and seek, Kittianapolis 500, and Kitty Sumo Wrestling. I have never seen cats bond this quickly before.

Extreme Closeup:

[more orangey cuteness to be found here -- I've added some new ones in the past couple of days]

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Introducing ... Little New Guy!

We're in negotiations about his name, Little New Guy and I. He's very happy, very playful (understatement), and Bear is taking it all in stride. He's hissed a couple of times, but only when Little New Guy has done the full-on pounce-onna-big-cat-face ambush thing. I think they are going to become great friends.

Little New Guy likes kitten food, the kitty water fountain, and long walks on the beach ... er, strike that last. He is super friendly and affectionate, and he has a Mighty Mighty Purr Machine.

He was picked up as a stray by the Morgan County Animal Shelter about a month ago, and was saved from imminent euthanasia by Jody from Rescue Farm. He is about five months old, and I am utterly smitten. :)

Want to see more kitten pictures? Sure you do.

UPDATE, Sunday morning: His name is Lotus. He is named after the Lotus Festival, which is taking place this weekend; the festival was named for folk musician Lotus Dickey, who was from Orange County, Indiana. So, an appropriate name for an orangey kitten adopted during Lotus weekend! And, sometime in the middle of last night, he and Bear figured out how to play together. They've been tearing around the house pouncing on each other ever since. It's making me smile more than I have in the entire last month put together.

Stay tuned for some scenes from our next episode.

Exciting (albeit non-poetry-related) news coming soon. I think. Probably. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dialing for Dollars is trying to find me

No poets received MacArthur grants (you know, the "genius awards") this year. But one librarian did. I know which of my professions is most likely to pay my bills. (I was going to link to the MacArthur Foundation website, but darned if it isn't down right now. Maybe they need to hire one of their genius people to keep their website running? Just a thought.)

My poetry group met tonight -- mainly worked on planning our annual reading (October 8th, details are over there in the right-hand margin somewhere in case anyone is within driving distance and wants to hear some poems) (but if you do, please don't leave at intermission, 'cause I don't read until the second half). The group is called Five Women Poets but we have eight readers this time around, seven group members and one guest. Hey, we're poets, not mathematicians. (Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a...)

The reading is called "Not the Foggiest Notion" (we always have a title for our readings, though I've never been sure quite why it's necessary) so I guess I will have to read my fog poem from Provincetown. Okay, okay, I was gonna read it anyway. I have two Provincetown poems to read, and that should be about 3-4 minutes, which gives me another 4-5 minutes to fill. Maybe I will sit down this weekend and figure out tentatively what to read. Nah... I'll do it the week of the reading like I always do. Last year I actually read a poem I had just written that day, which I would advise against doing 99.9% of the time, but it went over really well and I actually still like the poem. So who knows -- maybe I'll write something new between now and then.

Our "special guest" is Shana Ritter, who was in my first writing group that I started twenty years ago and which met regularly for over ten years. I'm looking forward to reading with her again; she's a terrific poet and a fine reader. She got a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission this year, which she used to take Martin Espada's workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in July; I'm going to hit her up for advice in a couple months (though she doesn't know it yet *grin*) because there's no way in hell I'm going to be able to afford to go to a workshop next year, probably not even the IU Writers' Conference right here in town, unless I can get a grant. (Vet bills. Dentist bills. Donations to hurricane stuff, which I got maybe a bit too carried away with. And today, a lovely car-repair bill of more than one week's take-home pay. Sigh.)

So yeah, MacArthur people? I'm right here waiting.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Olds to Bush: Thanks but no thanks

Wow. I never thought of Sharon Olds as being particularly political, but check out her letter to Barbara Bush, declining an invitation to attend the National Book Festival.

Good for her.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Three new poems drafted today. The first one was pretty much just warm-up, and who knows whether the other two are any good or not, but at least it's words on the page, after almost a month with none.

That breeze in the tree outside your window this afternoon? That was probably just my sigh of relief.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Seven things blah blah

oKAY, oKAY, I'll do it. (It's not like I had anything of substance to say anyhow... I need someone to come over here and kick my butt so I sit down and get some writing done this weekend.)

Seven Things I Plan To Do Before I Die:
1. Get a book published
2. Adopt a dog (and another cat, too)
3. Go snorkeling again, preferably in Hawaii
4. Go on a month-long writing retreat
5. Visit my father's grave
6. Go to Baja California to visit the gray whales in the lagoons
7. Be happy as much as possible

Seven Things I Can Do:
1. Explain some computer stuff so that even my mom can understand it
2. Take really good care of cats
3. Recognize at least one good quality in just about anyone
4. Parallel park (more or less)
5. Remember the words to pretty much every Indigo Girls song
6. Be happy with my own company (including going alone to movies, restaurants, concerts, even on vacation)
7. Be content

Seven Things I Can't Do:
1. Keep a spotless house (or anything remotely resembling same)
2. Swim
3. Speak a foreign language well
4. Wear high heels
5. Get up on time for work without an alarm (or two, or three...)
6. Understand why anyone would vote for George Bush
7. Travel light

Seven Things That Attract Me to People of the Same Sex:
1. Sense of humor
2. Passion about something, whether it is politics or music or computer programming
3. Kindness to animals
4. Compassion/empathy towards others
5. Love of books/reading
6. Intellectual curiosity
7. The ability (and willingness) to make me feel like I have her complete and undivided attention now and then

Seven Things I Say Most:
1. Sleeeeeeeeepy!
2. Oh my.
3. C'mere, Bear-Bear
4. Bear, you so cute
5. (Other rather embarrassing things said to cat)
6. I'll do it later/in a minute/tomorrow
7. (when training students) Does that make sense?

Seven Celebrity Crushes:
1. Amy Ray
2. Bruce Springsteen
3. Susan Sarandon
4. Jodie Foster
5. Martina Navratilova
6. Ty Greenstein (from Girlyman)
7. [This space intentionally left blank]

Seven People I'm Tagging:
1. You
2. You
3. You
4. Her
5. Him
6. You
7. Yes, you too

Monday, September 12, 2005


I feel like I'm emerging, a bit, from the paralysis that's gripped me for much of the past couple of weeks. Tonight I sat at my desk for a little while and wrote in my journal: nothing particularly productive, nothing working towards a poem, but words on the page. You gotta start somewhere.

Found this neat interview with Ruth Lepson, co-editor of Poetry from Sojourner: A Feminist Anthology (in which my poem "Catching the Scent" appears). I love this anthology and am ridiculously pleased to be in it, so I found the interview, in which Lepson discusses the anthology, particularly interesting. She talks about the daughter/mother relationship as being "a central subject of the book," and my poem falls into that category; nice to be part of a trend for once (*grin*). The interview originally appeared in Rain Taxi.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

How he got his name

This picture was taken 18 years ago this summer, when Mudpuppy was about 5 weeks old. He kept that smug smile all his life. :)

Laurel asked, so I'll tell you how he got his name. I was working in an administrative office here at IU at the time, and I had 2 cats (Yoda and Ninja, who were half-siblings). My boss came in one Monday morning and told us that the day before, she and her husband had been about to take their boat out on Lake Monroe, but the neighbor's cat was on the boat and it took them forever to get her shooed off. Then when they were out in the middle of the lake, they saw this little ... creature come crawling out from underneath something on the boat. First they thought it was a rat, but then they realized it was a tiny baby kitten, and there were four of them. When they got back to shore, the mama cat seemed to say "nuh-uh, you took 'em, you KEEP 'em." So my boss gave them flea baths and all day she talked about how cute they were and how if nobody took them she would take them to the shelter where they'd probably just get put to sleep. Towards the end of the work day she ran home and came back with a Box Full Of Kittens. Needless to say ... I picked up this little tabby guy and held him up to my face to coo at him, and when he kissed me on the nose it was all over. I'd had no intention of bringing home a third cat, but how could I not?

So I took him home, and left him shut up in the bathroom while I went to work the next day because he couldn't even waddle all the way across the room without falling over a little (he was that tiny) and I was afraid my grown cats would beat the crap out of him, as they were considerably less than thrilled about the sudden appearance of this little fluffball. One of my co-workers said I should name him Bud. I'm not gonna name him Bud! I said. That's a dumb name. You should name him Spuds McKenzie, she said. Don't be silly, that's a dog name, I said. She walked around all day muttering "Bud! Spud! Mud! Pud!" and somehow that turned into "Mudpuppy" in my head. I'm not gonna name him Mudpuppy! I said to myself. That's a dumb name and who ever heard of a cat named after a stupid salamander?

But as I was standing in the front yard after work, waiting for the cab to come and take us to the vet (I didn't have a car at the time), holding this little bitty tabby kitten, I started talking to him (of course). I asked him if he wanted to be named Mudpuppy. And when the nicknames started coming out of my mouth -- Muppet, Mup-nuppet, Meep-nuppy (the only thing he could say was "meep! meep! meeeeep!"), I knew I was stuck with a cat named Mudpuppy.

And so I was, for 18 years.

After work today I stopped by the vet and picked up his ashes (a local kennel has a pet cemetery & cremation service, and they will pick up & deliver from the vet clinic if you want). I took a copy of the kitten picture I posted above, and all the techs and vets and a couple of other folks oohed and ahhed over how adorable he was. I took the bottle of insulin I bought for him just a couple days before he got sick and hadn't opened, and the brand-new box of syringes, and they will be given to another client who has a diabetic cat and doesn't have a whole lot of money. Maybe a little bit of the luck Mudpup enjoyed for 18 years will go along with it and help keep this other cat healthy. I hope so.

Monday, September 05, 2005

fatigue and kindness

Between the personal grief (the loss of my dear cat) and the grief & suffering in the larger world, I can hardly bear to use language these days. The world (and especially this country) is about as fucked-up right now as I can remember ever seeing in my forty-four years, and my own house is much too quiet.

I will not feel bad about grieving my cat -- not to grieve is not to love, and I will not shut my heart down, not even in the face of ... what we're all facing now.

But it's hard to feel that I have anything to say, anything to add. Reading things like this survivor's testimony, I feel like I shouldn't even try. I cannot go south to help, I've given money, and what few words I can muster pale in comparison to what others have been able to say -- read those others. I have a good compilation of links to organizations accepting donations to assist animals who are also suffering in the hurricane's wake; anyone who wants those is welcome to backchannel me for the list (ahaines at gmail dot com). I will also direct you to this list of resources for socially responsible hurricane relief. Beyond that (which isn't much), what can I possibly say or do or offer?

Just this, just this: if you read these words, please be kind to somebody today. It may seem small and insignificant, but sometimes it's all we've got, just a little human kindness. It can't fix everything that's wrong, but maybe it can ease our hearts a bit. Be kind.

We need some happy news...

Blogger babies are the cutest -- check out Suzanne's new wee one! May she (and all of us) always find a safe place in this crazy world...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

A little more on Mudpuppy

Many thanks to those who sent condolences on Mudpuppy's death. He'd lived with me very nearly his whole life -- when I adopted him he was only 4 weeks old and didn't know how to eat solid food yet, though he figured that one out really fast and was a pretty good-sized cat his whole life (around 15 lbs). When he died he was 18 years old; if he'd been a human I would have been sending him off to college this month. Unless he'd joined a gang or become a rock star or a professional athlete, of course, in which case I'd be retiring so he could support me in my old age.

He was diagnosed with diabetes in January 1996, and from then until his death I gave him insulin shots twice a day, every day. Since the shots had to be 12 hours apart and timing was pretty critical, I had to get up early on weekends and holidays (though I often went back to bed, being very much Not A Morning Person), and if I went out with friends for a drink after work, I had to make sure I was home by 7:30 at the latest. "Gotta run! I need to go stick my cat with needles." The shots themselves didn't bother him a bit -- in fact, after the first few when he sensed that I was nervous, I don't think he even noticed them. With insulin and careful dietary management, diabetes is something pets can live with long-term -- Mudpup was a fabulous example of that. His quality of life was excellent; in the last couple of years he wasn't very active, and was bothered by arthritis in his hips/back legs, but he spent many happy hours napping in his bed or on the couch or sitting on my lap purring up a storm.

I am heartbroken to lose him, and I will miss him terribly. But I know that he had about as happy a life as a cat can ever hope for, and I'm glad I was able to give him that for so long. House pets have one job in life -- to love and be loved -- and that's a pretty lucky life to have.

Friday, September 02, 2005


July, 1987 - Sept. 2, 2005
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"monkey toes" (one of his nicknames):
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