Happy 25th Wedding Anniversary

If you recall, last week I posted a story, or rather, memoir, of a young woman wondering whether to send a letter.  If you missed it, you can read it here.  I’ll wait.

Twenty-five years ago, on August 21, the letter writer and the presumed letter recipient married in a small town in California.  (more…)

10 Great (and Cute) Facts about Writers and Cats

I didn’t know there was such a event as World Cat Day, but thanks to Interesting Literature, now I do know and I also know some more facts about writers and cats. Read on and enjoy!

Interesting Literature

It’s World Cat Day! The purr-fect opportunity (sorry – we couldn’t resist) to share 10 of our favourite writer-related facts about cats.

Ernest Hemingway had over 30 pet cats, with names including Alley Cat, Crazy Christian, Ecstasy, F. Puss, Fats, Furhouse, Skunk, Thruster, and Willy. Many of them had six toes; to this day, such cats are often known as ‘Hemingway cats’.

James Joyce wrote two stories for children, both about cats: ‘The Cat and the Devil’ and ‘The Cats of Copenhagen’. You can see some of the rare illustrations for ‘The Cat and the Devil’ here.

French writer Colette started her working day by picking the fleas off her cat.

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One of Daniel Defoe’s early business ventures was the harvesting of musk which he extracted from the anal glands of cats. Perhaps unsurprisingly (and thankfully for the cats involved), this venture failed.

Samuel Pepys is credited with…

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R.I.P Luisa

Luisa back in the day when she ruled the household

Born:  ??/??/1992 or 1993

Rescued: 08/26/1996

Died:  05/05/2014

In August 1996, we rescued Luisa from a local park, popular with runners and students, and adjacent to a student housing complex.  She liked to hang out on the roof of the restrooms.  My husband had fallen in love with her a few weeks earlier and fretted that she might have been abandoned.  We resolved to at least take her to a vet and post notices in the hope that her “owners” would come for her.  No one came forward to claim her, so she came home with us.

And lived with us for almost 18 years.  In all that time, she seemed to be the healthiest of the bunch, outliving Rascal, Smokey, Joshua, Elodea, and Mikey, and not showing any evidence of the chronic illnesses that they had all been afflicted with in their later years.  We had one scare in December 2011 when she developed fatty liver disease.  We had had to euthanize Mikey just two months before and neither of us felt emotionally strong enough to go through that again.  Fortunately, medication resolved the disease and soon she was eating and drinking and being as contrary as her usual tortie self.

This time ’round though, the big C knocked her down.  Although we tried medication, nothing could stop the progression of the disease.  These past several weeks have been a hellish roller-coaster ride with us getting hopeful every time she would raise her head and purr and chirp at us, alternating with painful dread of her imminent death when she started to refuse food and eventually only drank if we brought water to her.

Timing is everything, but it’s never perfect in this situation.  Either you euthanize them when there is still a shred of quality of life within them, and forever wonder if it was too soon and inhumane.  Or you put it off until they are simply a shell of a living creature, breathing hard, almost unable to move, and forever flog yourself for waiting one day too long.

In Luisa’s case, we feel we put it off too long.  Yet we are grateful she died at home and we were with her.

We gave her all the love and care and comfort in our power.  We loved her and will miss her deeply.

Luisa is survived by:

Maxine

Maxine

 

Junior

Junior

 

Wendy

Wendy

 

 And two broken-hearted furless bipeds named

Marie & Greg.

 

The Continuing Tale of Luisa

Now, I’m venturing outside my comfort zone here, especially since I didn’t bother to apply makeup or straighten my hair.  OMG, you’ll be seeing the REAL me!!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you 😉

Idling After a Week on the Roller Coaster

This week has been quite the emotional roller coaster, with my husband and I having a few teary-eyed discussions about our oldest cat, Luisa.  I’m happy to say that right now she is stable and seems to be regaining some of her old spunk and energy.

Luisa nodding off.

Luisa nodding off.

Okay, she’s not looking too spunky here, but this is the first morning in a week that she’s felt well enough to walk all the way from the back of the house to the front, climb up on the couch (with a little help from moi), and then take a nap in front of the window.  And I have the pleasure of giving her a cocktail of drugs twice a day:  her usual methimazole (for hyperthyroidism) and Pepcid (for her tummy; I don’t know that it helps but they say it doesn’t hurt); in addition, an anti-nausea pill once a day; appetite stimulant every three days; a liquid medication for colitis; and a food supplement similar to Activa.  Fortunately, Luisa is very good about taking pills and even having a syringe of cold liquid splashed at the back of her throat.  We are not assuming that she’s out of danger yet.  I mean, she’s at least 20 (my husband argues that she’s closer to 22) and her body is shutting down.  We’re just trying to slow the process and make her comfortable.  And right now, our efforts are paying off 🙂

With Luisa as my distraction, I’ve fallen very behind in writing and blogging and commenting.  Fortunately, this morning I came across this post from CommuniCATE Resources for Writers:  Don’t “Write” Yourself Off: I Don’t Care How Old You Are!  Indeed, I needed to read this!  One of the (many) struggles I have with my writing is my age:  Will I someday be too old to publish a FIRST novel?  Is time running out for me?  If you ever have any of these thoughts, read Cate’s blog post.

And if you feel that sometimes the world is too full of bad news and bad people, there’s a new blog that you’ll want to visit and perhaps even contribute to:  Good People Doing Great Things.  This is the brain-child of Margaret Jean Langstaff, a wonderful writer and blogger that you may already know through her blog, The Langstaff Retort.  For Good People Doing Great Things, Margaret wants “to hear your stories and experiences, events and acts of spontaneous kindness that you have witnessed or initiated yourself.” She is looking for guest bloggers, columnists, advisors, people who understand the importance of compassion in our humanity, as well as anyone with WP expertise who would be willing volunteer their time to make the new blog visually engaging.

Almost finally, Interesting Literature had two very interesting posts last week:  one about 19th century inmates of insane asylums (click here) and another one on great quotations from women writers (click here).  My favorite quote of those listed:  ‘Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.’ – Virginia Woolf

Now really finally, for Belinda at Busymindthinking.com …

Sunset at one of the most beautiful places on earth:  St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

Sunset at one of the most beautiful places on earth: St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

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Luisa: My Funny Feline

Dear Reader, you see this lovely specimen of a feline in repose.  Reading is hard work, you know, especially of The New Yorker (such long articles!).

IMG_0003_2

Luisa sleeping on a copy of The New Yorker and my husband’s stargazing log.

The girl does love to sleep.  And she deserves to sleep as much as she wants because she is at least 20 years old.

Luisa asleep on the porch

Luisa asleep on the porch

What Luisa doesn’t like is going to the vet.

Luisa at the vet's

Luisa at the vet’s

Unfortunately, we’ve had to take her in twice in less than a week.  Last week, she started throwing up her food.  Nothing terribly unusual.  She often had these spells of puking up food and then begging for more, and then she would be fine for awhile.  But last week was different.  The frequency of her throwing up increased until the point where all she could throw up was frothy liquid because there was no longer food in her stomach.  And of course this was in the wee hours of the morning.  So I laid in bed and told myself that “if she has one more episode, I’m taking her to the emergency vet.”  And of course all was quiet after I made that decision, as if she had read my mind.

Of course, I was in denial and, to a degree, I still am.  I wanted only for the vet to prescribe over the phone some anti-nausea medicine and an appetite stimulant.  Oh, yes, I forgot to mention:  Luisa had stopped eating.

So the first visit to the vet involved Luisa getting subcutaneous fluids to hydrate her, an anti-nausea shot, and an antibiotics shot (her white blood cell count was elevated).  We took her home and observed her, tried to feed her, watched her every movement.  Oh, did I mention that she was also constipated?

By Monday, she had only eaten a spoonful of food that I held in front of her.  She would have no more.  So back to the vet we went.  I saw a different doctor this time, one that I was more comfortable with since she had treated a few of our other cats as well.  It’s very simple:  we can try a few non-invasive procedures and if they fail, well, there’s euthanasia.  We can try invasive procedures and if they fail, well, there’s euthanasia.  Luisa is at least 20 years old.

We found her in a local park almost 18 years ago.  My husband fell in love with her and as days past and she seemed to always be on the top of the restrooms whenever he came to the park to run, he grew more anxious.  There were student apartments nearby so we suspected the usual.  When the nighttime temperatures started to fall, my husband grew even more anxious.  So one day I drove out to the park, coaxed her off the roof of the restrooms, and cajoled her into a pet taxi,  and off to the vet we went.  I left behind info on the vet … just in case, but of course,  no one ever called.  So.  She was ours.  We named her Luisa because we found her in San Luis Mission Park.

It hasn’t been all roses with Luisa.  She is a “crazy tortie.”  Until recently, she wouldn’t tolerate being petted.  She always wanted to be in the same room with us, but we were to look and not touch.  It was hard not to laugh when I would go to pet her and she would hiss and slap my hand.

But in the last couple of years, perhaps you could say now that’s she is in her dotage, she seems to enjoy being petted.  In fact, she sleeps with me, often curled up on the inside of my left arm.  Or on my pillow where her whiskers tickle my face.  She is still with us, as of this writing.  We are trying the non-invasive treatments:  anti-nausea medicine, appetite stimulant, another round of subcutaneous fluids.  But if this regimen fails, we can do no more.  We will do no “heroics” for our aging queen.  All we want to hear her purr and know that she does not suffer.

So, if I seem to be absent from blogging or distracted when I am here, she is my cause.  I don’t want to let her go.  Of course, it’s inevitable.  She’s not getting any younger, and keeping her beyond her comfort zone would not be fair to her.  But right now, she does not seem to be in distress.  She still seems alert.  But she still won’t eat.

For now, dear Reader, understand that I am rather preoccupied because Luisa is still here and I need every minute with her that I can get.  Even if she spends most of those minutes sleeping.

Luisa participating in her favorite activity.

Luisa participating in her favorite activity.

Saving Wendy

Wendy

Wendy adapting to her new home.

We were on our way back home after a two-day business meeting in another state.  We still had about 200 miles to go when we decided to stop at a Wendy’s off I-75 and break for dinner.  I was tired and hungry and sat facing away from the windows when one of my coworkers pointed past my shoulder and said “Look!”  I turned and my heart sank.  A thin cat was slinking along the ledge of a window, rubbing against the concrete dividers, and begging for food.  I sighed and looked away, telling myself that she was likely a stray, probably feral, and I should ignore her because I was 200 miles from home and I already have three cats.

And I keep telling my husband that we cannot have any more cats.  Even in the best possible environment, they grow old, they get sick, they die.  We’ve had to put down four cats in the 20+ years we’ve lived here.  Luisa is almost twenty years old, and I dread the day when she’ll start to fail and we’ll have to make “the decision” yet again.  Junior and Maxine are not so old, but I can’t imagine life without them.

So I turned away, but this cat continued to walk along all three windowed sides of the fast food place, catching my attention.  Finally, I bought a hamburger and my coworker gave me a tray to put it on.  I went outside and couldn’t find her.  I circled the place twice and was ready to give up.  The three of us consulted and I put the tray of cooked meat down around some bushes.  We moved toward our van when a car started and the thin, now obviously young, cat came shooting out from under it.  She followed me to the tray, rubbing against my legs as we went.

I was able to pick her up.  She let me pet her.  She wasn’t feral, not at all.  She was a young cat, perhaps younger than one year old, and all I could think was that she was lost.  I don’t remember what I said next, but whatever it was, it prompted my coworkers to suddenly start brainstorming about how we could get her to my home.

One coworker brought the van around to where the cat was eating; the other went into Wendy’s and got a bunch of paper napkins to line the recycle bin that we had used to transport documents.  There was a department store in the next lot, so we drove there and they insisted on looking for a pet taxi.  Aside from our luggage, we didn’t have a closed container to put her in, and it was too dangerous to let her roam loose in the van.

While my coworkers were in the store, I called my husband, just to warn him.  I’m bringing home a cat.  My coworkers are enablers.  They want me to call her Wendy.

They came back with a pan of cat litter, a large fleece blanket, a bag of kitty treats, a bottle of water, and a double-bowl dish.  As soon as the van started again, she made for the floor.  I tried to get her to settle in the recycle bin but she would have none of it.  Finally, I loosely wrapped the blanket around her and pulled her to my lap.  She laid there, purring, sleeping and stretching for three-and-a-half hours.

So we have a new cat.  Her name is Wendy (although my husband likes to call her Wendyz).  She had been spayed (yea!) but she had not been chipped.  Well, she wasn’t then, but she is now.  To her original caretakers:  I am sorry you lost your cat.  I don’t know of any way to find you since she was found at a fast-food restaurant off a major interstate and she didn’t have a chip.  Your loss is our gain.  She is beautiful and she is sweet and she is safe and we will do everything to give her a long, happy life.

I know The Association’s song is “Windy” but it still kept popping into my head on that long drive home.

The World’s Top 10 Best Images of Cats in Sinks

Cats in sinks!

A Room of His Own: A True Story of One Cat

Read the true story of living with a cat who never met a surface he didn’t want to spray.

The Community Storyboard

freshly-pressed-rectangle

I knew before I entered the animal shelter that I would name our new cat Joshua, a cat I had not yet picked out.  As I scanned the cages of sleeping felines, the sound of one howling cat drew me down the corridor.  Everyone was asleep except for him.  His big yellow eyes begged for my attention.  His dark gray coat hung on his skinny frame, but his goatee and paws were a brilliant white.  So I stopped.  He reached out with his right paw and patted my face.

The next day I picked up Joshua from a nearby veterinarian after he had been neutered.  Oh, yes, I had naively adopted an unaltered adult male stray.  Thus we started on the roller-coaster of adaptation.

The first night I brought him home, he howled all night long.  Piercing howls that moved me to tears – especially when he kept running away…

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Things Are In the Saddle

These lines–Things are in the saddle, And ride mankind–should be familiar to any college student who had to read early American literature.  These are lines that, when I first read them, I didn’t quite understand them.  It was the late 1980s and while my husband and I were starting to tread carefully into personal computer ownership, we were still technologically young enough to be giddy over our remote controlled TV and new CD player.  As the years passed and we accumulated more gadgets and at a faster rate than we could have anticipated, those lines of Emerson‘s spring to my mind more and more frequently.

In a society where consumerism is nearly a religion and oftentimes used to show “patriotism,”  it’s difficult not to fall into a depression of sorts when the It of “is this it?” is not enough.  You buy gadgets that reportedly will enhance your life, and six months later they are obsolete.  So you purchase anew to feel purpose in life and the cycle continues.  It’s not only a sad way to live, it’s unsustainable.  Unless you’re incredibly wealthy, at some point you run of money to buy the things that you think will give your life meaning.  Hence, the lottery.  A quick fix.  A desire to be wealthy without having to work for it (unless you consider standing in line work).  When I’m in one of my Peggy Lee moods and start humming Is That All There Is?, I:

  • go for a walk without my iPod so I’m not distracted from the song and flight of birds, the squirrels chasing each other up and down trees, the hum of insects;
  • pick up a hardcover book and feel it’s weight in my hands and the dryness of paper as I flip through the pages;
  • hug my husband;
  • pet my cats;
  • call a friend;
  • write

Granted, some of these things cost money:  shoes for walking, books for reading, food for husband and cats, phone for calls, pen and paper for writing.  But none of them requires a gadget, a technological device that has been partly designed to make me feel lost without it (even the phone mentioned is one that we’ve had for about 20 years).  We are existential beings struggling to make sense of a world that often makes little sense.  We are sold things with the promise that we can derive meaning for our lives through these things.  But do we?  How many of us, every so often, decide to go “off the grid” in a quest to find true meaning, sustainable meaning, meaning that will outlast every technological advance we embrace?

Recently, our DSL had an interruption in services for at least a day.  I admit, when I realized that I could not connect to the Internet, that I could not check my blog or my favorite blogs, I panicked.  I didn’t know why I couldn’t connect and the thought of being disconnected for unknown hours was chilling.  It was early morning, before I had to leave for work and I was in a panic that I could not “log on” and get my blog fix before setting off for my day job.  But, my husband was still there.  In fact, he was oblivious to my panic because he was on the porch reading a book, his morning routine before setting out for work.  My cats were still there and actually annoyed that I was in more of a tizzy over the loss of my Internet access than I ever am when it’s their feeding time.  My books hadn’t disappeared, and I still had drawers of pens, pencils and paper to write on.  I didn’t check my phone because I actually hate phones.

It was a wake-up call for me.  Should I be so dependent on technology that I stop breathing when I open Firefox and get the message:  “Error.  Server unavailable”?  Should I allow these things to ride me?  Or should I embrace the sudden silence, the sense of time slowing, the drawn-out minutes when I can pick up an unread issue of the New York Review of Books or Harper’s or The New Yorker and feel reconnected to that time, 30-some years ago, when I read these periodicals as soon as they arrived in the mail?

I don’t want to go totally off-the-grid.  I wouldn’t have a blog if I did, but I don’t like feeling controlled by technology, made to feel that every second I don’t own an iPhone is a second lost to me.  [Disclaimer:  I do own and love my iPad2, but note it is an iPad2, not the newest iPad and, like all my other gadgets, I’ll likely still be using it long past its obsolescence.]  So, fellow bloggers, and any one else who stumbles across this post, are you in the saddle, or are things?

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