Category Archives: cats

Back again

Well, I all but abandoned this blog lately, but for good reason: I got a second job!  I’m now a TA in the Spanish Department, as well as in the Creative Writing Department, working 9 hours in the Spanish Conversation Center, helping undergraduates figure out how to twist their tongue around answers to basic questions, like, Where are you from?  And, is your roommate annoying?  Describe to me your least favorite chore from childhood.  We also make lots of small talk.  If I had a penny for every student I asked what his/her major was… Brings me back, y’all.  To awkward house and dorm parties with peers I didn’t know.

It’s very divertido and exhausting to speak Spanish 9 hours a week, but gratifying as I remember that I actually started out my professional career as a Spanish teacher, then an English teacher abroad in Andorra to Spanish-speaking students.  I feel I’m getting less rusty, and it’s always enjoyable when, in any language, someone younger than you looks at you wide-eyed and asks you to describe the magical time you had, after graduating, in the workforce in places as glamorous as Philly and Andorra (I usually have to point it out on a map), and when they, in despair and in English, ask how you EVER learned Spanish because it’s SO HARD OMG IMPERFECT (answer: I personally think every university should adopt the RC from U of Michigan’s campus model by having morning grammar lectures in Spanish, lunch table conversation centers, and afternoon literature discussion circles in Spanish–8 credits in total PASS/FAIL to take the pressure off getting “everything right”–which is impossible when learning a foreign language at first, since you are basically a toddler developmentally in the language).

The extra money in my bank account does not hurt at all as I try to save save save for effectively being unemployed come June/July and simultaneously living in Oxford, England, where I’ll be taking an independent research tutorial on lady sonnetiers and a course on American Fiction since 1945. I’ll also graduate with my Master’s in English Literature from Middblebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English.  It’s really hard to believe I’ll be graduating, since that means it was four years ago that I was in Andorra teaching and trying to figure out how to break in the English literature teaching market back home in the States and thus elected to spend my first summer doing Bread Loaf in Vermont with other English teachers of the U.S. looking to up their resume/content know how.

It was at my first summer at BL that I took a poetry workshop with newly minted Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith, who mentored me and gently suggested I consider applying for an MFA in poetry once I told her what I wanted to do (teach writing, have more time for my own writing, read great works of literature), and, well, the rest led me to where I am now.

On top of double TA’ing at UNCW, I’m still blogging regularly at Ploughshares writing their literary round down every other Tuesday.  Thanks to those who read and shared–I get a bonus if my views go up, so thank you. I’m also still teaching yoga at Pineapple Studios downtown and enjoying developing “regulars” each week.  I’ve been there officially a year, which is an amazing anniversary to me.  A while back I imagined my dream life, and it included author, yoga teacher, and outdoor enthusiast, so it’s pretty great that I’ve had the opportunities I’ve had lately to explore my passions and bring them to others.

Things with Daisycat are great.  She’s currently snuggled in my lap.  Sometimes (read: all the time) she wakes me up in the middle of the night, so I haven’t been sleeping all that well, but could you resist this face?

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I didn’t think so.

Additionally, in the service of making more money for the summer/Europe, I may also be subbing for a local academy here in Wilmington, to keep my teaching fresh.  If any people in the MFA program are wondering why you never see me perhaps this post will explain.  I’ve also been suffering from insane allergy attacks lately which on top the not sleeping well have made me feel somewhat of a zombie.  But a happy zombie who finally likes what she’s producing in her workshops.  And who falls asleep at 10:00PM on Saturdays.

My boyfriend continues to be a lovely stud who cooks AND cleans, even when he’s been at work longer than I have, and when I ask if I can help, he shoos me out of the kitchen and tells me to take a nap/have a glass of wine/take a bath, etc.  He’s a gem and a keeper and I’m so glad we had the various twists and turns that brought us together.  His humor keeps me laughing and his goodness keeps me growing.  His pretty sky blue eyes don’t hurt neither.

Anyway, that’s it for now: I will try to be better at putting something up here.  Perhaps not Saturdays anymore that I agreed to support Arsenal Football Club (read the above paragraph), but maybe I’ll start Wednesday posts, since I don’t have much but an evening class that day.

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Filed under blog, cats, creative writing, literature

Yoga Rant

Dear Smug, Toned Teen at the Y last night,

Thank you so much for your concern and for stopping in the middle of your warm up flow to come over to me, bend over, squat down, put your face in mine while I try to gaze at my navel and not at the front of my mat at you, and whisper corrections for my arm placement in my downward facing dog.  Just a few thoughts, however, you may want to consider in future before taking yourself out of your own breath and body to concern yourself with what your neighbor is doing.  I’ve complied them here for your convenience. Three things you may want to ask yourself before pausing your practice and pulling such a move in the future:

1. Is the person behind perhaps performing some sort of modification for their large acromiom process and tight sub-scapula muscles that limit their shoulder mobility and thus cause the person to be getting the same benefits I am enjoying in my downward facing dog, but just not necessarily to look like me or like the norm that instructor is pitching to? If yes, pipe down and perk your hips back up to the ceiling.  If no, continue.

2. Is the person behind me perhaps an RYT 200 level certified yoga instructor herself who may or may not know more about her own body and modifying for it than I do?  If so, take a deep breath, stay in position, gaze at your own navel and reclaim your ujjayi pranayama. If not, proceed.

3. Am I actually the instructor in the room or is it someone else’s job to concern themselves with anyone other than herself? If not, take a big deep inhale, pause, reflect on your need to assert yourself in places you may not belong, then let it all go in one big whoosh out your mouth.  If yes, proceed.

4. Am I remembering the core tenants of a safe, non-harming, non-judgmental yoga practice that keeps in mind the ultimate guru is one’s own body, one’s own needs, and that yoga is done from within, not from comparing oneself to how other people look?  If yes, persist with the gentle care and compassion you were taught with to assist the person in need.  If no, meditate on that for a mo’.

This PSA brought to you safely after being rewritten twice after a cat malfunction.  Yes, cat malfunction: my flea infested, worm infested, giardia infested, yeast infected, herpes infected adopted kitten leapt on the keyboard during the first draft and some how managed to delete the whole post.  (A separate rant about how much money I have hemorrhaged for this poor sick sweet post deleting baby will likely follow next week).

I like to think this one is more succinct for having had to have been rewritten.  Perhaps I will invite her to pull such a move on me in future writing projects.

Or perhaps you will see a PSA letter dedicated to Daisy next week.

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Mountain Retreat

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Stairs to the cabin.

This will be a photo essay of the amazing time I had in Hot Springs last weekend with the kindest, most understanding, generous and easy going get-away partner a gal could have.  (He was a heck of a photographer, too.  Also, wonderful at getting stains out of wood that a certain someone created when she left her wet towel atop an antique dresser and at calming down a kitty in a 7 hour car ride.)

Path outside the cabin. The colors were like dipped paint brushes, electric in the light.

Path outside the cabin. The colors were like dipped paint brushes, electric in the light.

A perfectly secluded writer retreat.

A perfectly secluded writer retreat.

I've always wanted to hike the AT!

I’ve always wanted to hike the AT!

A walk in the woods is refreshing for both mind and body.

A walk in the woods is refreshing for both mind and body.

Atop Max Patch.

Atop Max Patch.

Odd trail companions came out of nowhere.

Odd trail companions came out of nowhere.

My favorite are the splashes of red.  Also, weather cold enough for a jacket at last!

My favorite are the splashes of red. Also, weather cold enough for a jacket at last!

Such a great view after a brisk hike.

Such a great view after a brisk hike.

Can you tell it was hard to come back?

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Me reading Kasischke for class and failing to stay candid.

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Filed under cats, mountain retreats, north carolina, poetry, positivity, vacation

On Cats and Mountain Escapes

This week’s post will be a little quicker, less processed as I have a lot to do today before jetting off for fall break to the mountains tomorrow.  I’m heading off to Hot Springs, NC (voted best small mountain town by Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine in 2012!) in order to bask in cool mountain air and autumn colors.  I always have the urge to “get away” into nature.  To lose myself in a thicket of trees.  To feel the certainty of having to put one foot in front of the other.  To leave behind traffic noises and the sound of small talk.  To feel infinitesimal under a big sky and looming peaks but also rooted in time and place.  That I’m renting a secluded cabin near Max Patch feels right.  I’ve been overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, and in need of a change of scene for a while now.

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Daisy curled up on the couch the first day I got her.

I’ve also been really stressed about the health of my little kitty, Daisy.  She’s almost six months old now, which in kitty years means she’s technically an adolescent.  This is also evidenced by her overall newfound brattery (shredding bed spreads/curtains, sitting on my face while I sleep, stepping her own poop and then pouncing every where in the newly cleaned apartment, knocking over and shattering pottery/lamps/mugs, chewing…all the things, flinging out the hair guard I have in my tub and playing soccer with it, and knowing just when I’m about to have a break-through in my relationship with my writing muse and taking that particular moment to jump up and down on my keyboard).  I love her, though, more than I thought I would.  She consistently makes me laugh and remember the benefit of furry kisses and cuddles every morning and night.  It’s also so nice to have something that scampers eagerly to the door when I arrive home after a particularly frustrating teaching gig or writing workshop or social outing.

Unfortunately, she’s had diarrhea for two months–ever since I first brought her home–and it’s getting worse.  The other week I found her straining and her watery stool had blood in it.  I panicked and called the vet and ran her over to the hospital, where they did a full work up of tests–and everything came back negative.  Which, on the one hand, is great (no cancer! no AIDS!), but on the other hand, means I am hundreds of dollars poorer and still no closer to understanding what is wrong with her or how to make her feel better.

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Daisy playing with the mouse attached to the pretty dark walnut/rattan scratching pad I bought her that she has no interest in clawing (not so for the wicker ottoman I have).

I’ve been switching up her food every ten-fourteen days to try to see if it’s a food allergy, but so far, none have seemed to really make a huge difference.  For a few days, it seemed as though a grain-free, wet turkey can food was working, but then, inexplicably, she went right back to having watery stool. (Side note: it is insane to me how many of my hours are now consumed with thoughts of poop.  I sardonically mentioned to a friend that this must be what it is like to be a new parent).  Frustratingly, I’d stocked up on a bunch of the turkey wet food before she turned back to the diarrhea, and now I can’t take the bulk set back to the store (it’s opened) and the vet wants her on this prescription hydrolyzed protein diet (which from what I can tell from the last two days, is just making things even more watery, stinky, and worse).  To make matters even worse, this was the most expensive shit (literally) yet, and it smells just like you would imagine food that comes from a lab might and kind of permeates the house.

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Daisy getting bigger, curled around a pumpkin.

I had a friend warn me not to adopt a kitten who is already sick, and now I realize why–you end up chasing down their illness and throwing lots of money at the problem without any real expectation that you’ll get to the bottom of it.  My only consolation is that for the most part, she is still perfectly friendly and playful and eats and drinks just fine.  The vet has pronounced her otherwise healthy and seems stumped (I grumpily wonder if it’s time to find a new vet after my fifth visit in two months with no answers).  However, I fell in love with her the moment the shelter put her in my lap and told me her name was Daisy (my favorite flowers) and that she was born around April 21 (my birthday).  She was soft and orange, just like my cat from my childhood, and was so inquisitive and purred so much even though she was sick that I just had to have her in the moment, without a thought for the consequences.  (Note: it is also not advisable to go “look” at kittens when you are still in the throws of sorrow after a break-up.  You will inevitably come home with at least one).  I was in a raw place emotionally and pathetically told myself, sick kitties need homes and love too.  Maybe more so than the healthy ones!

I’m glad I got her, but I do wish I could once and for all figure out what to do to make her feel better!

In other news, I did some minor research on writers and pets.  Edith Wharton called her tiny dog a “heartbeat at her feet.”  Ernest Hemingway had many cats and privileged their emotional honesty above human’s, stating, “A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” William S. Burroughs also had an orange tabby cat he called Ginger.

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William S. Burroughs and Ginger.

Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens said of cats, “Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not of these” –and neither am I.  This picture of him with a shoulder kitty killed me dead with adorableness.

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Mark Twain and kitten.

I therefore like to think that puts me in good company.

Most writers I know have a furry friend who sits by their feet (or on their lap…or, let’s be honest, on their keys/paper…in Daisy’s case she sometimes tries to eat the paper I’m writing on) and provides comfort and distraction when necessary.

My fellow writer friends: do you have a pet and any funny stories about how they help/hinder your process?

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