Category Archives: Cats and Other Animals

Making After Loss

On my last post about losing all the kitties, Linda Raha suggested I make scrapbooks for the kitties. She knew that that would be right up my alley. What she didn’t know is that I was already making something to remember my dears by.

Using my art journaling supplies and a carton that cat food comes in, I made this so that all the kitties (including Mac who I lost in 2015) are together, right where I can see them all the time.

The cat bed and bowls are dollhouse-sized. The kitty on top was a gift. Here is a close-up of the kitty pix.

Upper left is my heart Pear, then clockwise, Mac, Felix, and Izzie.

Monday I had the vaccine booster shot, and I felt fine yesterday morning. But then I started to get sick with a 101 fever and then painful lymph node swelling under my arm, reaching into my chest and back and down to the tips of my fingers. I had finger cramping last night, but not this morning, so maybe I will be getting better soon.

Well, i wanted to share with you my little cat nicho. Make it a great rest of your week.  XOXO

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In a Fog

This has been such a difficult three months for me. On the one hand, I am blessed that I am not recently mourning any of my human relatives or close friends. But two of our long-time kitties and one of our kitty grandkits have passed away–one in July, one in August, one in September. Isabella Rose, or Izzie, was my daughter’s cat, only 11 years old, and I used to babysit her alllll the time. I loved babysitting her. She would walk in as though she owned the place. She had the other cats convinced of just that. We had Felix for fifteen years, and he was such a gentle, sweet soul. He endured chronic GI problems for years, but we set up a camera over his litter box and monitored his “schedule” for two years. I didn’t mind at all because I loved him so much.

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that the latest loss is my closest friend, my heart, Pear Blossom. She was 21 1/2, but that only makes it harder because we were together for so long. So many of my people have known her over the years. And with her kind and helpful personality, she touched so many lives. Pear and Felix were from my first group of three cats. They were very good friends–the three mousketeers. Macavity passed away in 2015. If you would like to read the story of how Mac, our first cat, came to be a part of our family–and how the gardener changed from a self-avowed cat hater–you can read this story: My Own Cat Hero or a Loss Upon a Loss

Why do kitties always take a turn for the worse on the weekend when one is least likely to find one’s vet available? Izzie passed on a Sunday, and both Felix and Pear on Saturdays. And yesterday, on Saturday, Tiger got sick!!!!! I took her to the ER after calling them and making sure. But when we were getting checked in, the vet called in sick. They sent me to another ER across town. At that one, the vet was just going into surgery and the wait would be hours. I was concerned that Tiger could have a urinary blockage as she had been running in and out of the litter box, unable to pee. By this time my vet was open (only open mornings on Saturdays) and although they were completely booked up, she let me drop off Tiger so she could be examined between patients. Luckily, Tiger turned out to have a UTI, not a blockage.

Being there at the euthanasia of three cats in three months has made me feel like the Angel of Death. I’m a benign zombie, not fully in the moment. The couch is soooo lonely without Pear next to me, even if another cat comes to me. I can only sleep at night with the little blanket Pear used in the last few weeks of her life.

Of course, life keeps on happening, right in the face of grief. But I’m trying to go easy and not push myself right now.

I had posted the following pic on Instagram in September 2019, while I was babysitting Izzie. I felt like Snow White with the 7 little cats–so happy to have them all together in my home. But now it’s easy to see the devastation.

Don’t worry: Tiger and Kana still make me work hard with all their needs. And Perry needs lots of attention because he’s grieving more than the other cats. He is at loose ends much of the time, with a sad look on his face.

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In Loving Memory

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Changing of the Month, Changing of the Season

You might think from the post title that fall has come to Phoenix. Not. It’s still hot. And, yet, there is something of fall here, if only in our minds. Today is a holiday in the United States. We celebrate Labor Day because the lives of laborers in the 19th century (and early 20th century, too) were often horrible and sometimes horrific. If you want to read more about what it was like through fiction, try Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle or Rebecca Harding Davis’ Life in the Iron Mills. Although many workers in this country have reaped the benefits of unemployment insurance for some or much of the pandemic, before 1935 no such assistance existed. I was thinking that Labor Day 2021 ought to be dedicated to medical–as well as the whole chain of food delivery–employees since they have been our front lines against covid.

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Last month I participated in The Sealey Challenge, reading poetry every day. For the first half or more, I read a book a day. Then I chose more complex books and gave myself 3-4 days each. I’ve never read so much poetry in one month in my life. Well, maybe in grad school, but I mean I’ve never enjoyed so much poetry in one month in my life hahaha.

I also participated in an Instagram mixed media challenge called #seekgathercreate. It was a lot of fun. You start off by collecting four different objects each week to use for the page. The rest is up to the art journaler. Here are a couple of pages I made for it.

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This month I am participating in Genealogy Photo a Day on Instagram. There are assigned topics for each day, so my job is to post an image, generally from my own family, that fits the topic. What I like about this besides the interactions with people on Instagram is that it makes me think about my family history from a different perspective. I think it makes the old new for me.

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I’ve been revising my memoir. I was going to join #pitmad on Twitter, but then I realized that my manuscript might not be a good match for finding an agent that way. I also realized how short my memoir is now. A few years ago it was too long, but the new version is significantly shorter. Too short for a traditional publisher, most likely. Nevertheless, after some finishing touches I am doing this week, I doubt I will try to lengthen the manuscript. If I like it the way it is, then I want to publish it the way I like it. Of course, this is what I am thinking today!

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Pear is hanging in, but I had to up her pain meds a bit so that her leg doesn’t bother her. I’m taking it one day at a time. Tiger is now drinking way too much water. She is 17.5, so she is not a spring chicken either! I worry about her kidneys, plus there is something going on with her liver. Here is Perry lying next to Pear. Maybe he hopes he can comfort her.

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Not only is it Labor Day today, but this evening begins the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Shana tova! Happy New Year! XO

 

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Rest in Peace to My Sweet Fefe

Rest In Peace to the bestest boy Kitchen Kat Felix “Fefe” Mr Scoobydooby man. My kitchen seems ridiculous without him in charge. I tried to help him through all his health issues, but last night the lymphoma or FIP attacked his neurological system and he began to have many small seizures. The vet said it was time to let him go. Mac and Izzie met him where the colors band together.
Two years ago I posted Felix’s story on this blog. If you didn’t get a chance to read it at that time, here it is again. I won’t be posting tomorrow, but I will be back a week later. XO

Luanne Castle's Writer Site

Luanne: Felix, please tell your story to my friends. They have heard from Pear Blossom and Tiger and Sloopy Anne and Perry. But you and Kana have not yet told your stories. I need to coach Kana a bit on how to tell a public story, but you should be fine. Just tell it how you remember it. How you know it.

Felix: Mom! Stop! You tell it. I can’t.

Luanne: Sure you can, Fefe.

Felix: Aw shucks.

Luanne: You’re so big and strong. Why are you afraid to talk about yourself?

Felix: It’s embarrassing. People might look at me.

Luanne: OK, you tell me the story. I’ll write it down and then I’ll share it that way. Nobody will ever see you. We’ll negotiate photos later on.

Felix: Um, ok.

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From Luanne: What follows is the story that Felix told me about his life. This story was being…

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Kitty Care

A big thank you to Susan Farese for guest hosting last week. I have added her contact links to that post if you would like to follow or contact her.

I’ve written about my Felix and his terminal illness (either lymphoma or dry FIP). He is on medications, supplements, and fluids. He’s eating ok, not great, but only because of the pred he’s on. I guess steroids causes them to eat if they otherwise will not. And he doesn’t seem to be suffering, but enjoying life enough. He is getting skinny though.

Now I have another cat who has entered hospice in my home. That is my 21-year-old best friend Pear Blossom. Pear’s lab values are great for her age. She’s completely fine. EXCEPT.  She has a tumor on her front leg. At her age, surgery or amputation is out of the question, so we are trying to keep her comfortable and then will have to let her go when Pear says it’s time. I have been concerned about this leg since January, but couldn’t get a vet “interested” before. I took her to a new vet who was able to xray and then to probe under the scabs where she saw the tumor. I don’t want to “talk” too much about how this wasn’t acted upon earlier. It’s too upsetting on the one hand. On the other, what could they have done back in January? She was still nearly 21 at that time.

Instead, my focus is on taking care of these two, making them as comfy as possible, and then also not neglecting my other four!

In the photo: top left clockwise: Pear Blossom, Perry, Kana, Felix, Sloopy Anne, Tiger

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I’ve been participating in the Sealey Challenge since August 1 (reading a poetry book a day). I’m focusing on short books and chapbooks because it is a lot of reading on top of everything else.  In fact, I’m debating if I should continue because I got my memoir manuscript back from a consultation and really need to work on it. Guess what?! This new structure works, according to the reader!!!! First time in ten years the structure has worked LOL. Reminder: this new structure has short pieces like this: MacQueen’s Quinterly 3 linked stories

The book structure has gone a bit full circle, but every time it moved around the circumference it gained something positive even in the midst of setbacks.

Even if I don’t continue with the Sealey Challenge it’s been a really positive experience to savor a variety of poetry styles in such quick succession.

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I haven’t forgotten the rest of my nonfiction reviews. Hope to have them up next week! OK, gotta go hug my kitties.

 

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Nonfiction Picks from Joy Neal Kidney and Gwen Wilson

I’ve been reading instead of writing lately. Today I want to share two of the nonfiction books I’ve enjoyed.

Book #1 is biographical and historical nonfiction based on the author’s family history.

A year and a half ago I reviewed Joy Neal Kidney’s nonfiction book Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II. That book opened my eyes to the “home front” during WWII—what the war was like for some American families. Joy’s family, in particular, suffered great loss as three of her grandparents’ sons died in battle.

Joy has a new book out called Leora’s Dexter Stories. The subtitle, “The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression,” gives an idea of what story lies inside. It’s also an understatement. This book uses a variety of sources, such as journals and family stories to piece together a heart-breaking account of the poverty experienced by the Wilson family during the Depression.

Too bad this book can’t be required reading of every American and every student in American schools so that we learn not only what hardships people went through during that time but also how hardworking, clever, and resilient they could be. Our ideas of recycling and repurposing today are a joke compared with what Leora, Clabe, and their children did to survive. For awhile the only thing that kept them from being homeless was when the two oldest sons joined the Navy and sent money home to the family. The family endured criticism and gossip from others because of the need to sometimes be on a form of relief, although they worked very hard as tenant farmers or in other jobs. I managed to hold off crying until daughter Doris, Joy’s mother, an amazing basketball star, had to leave her full-scholarship business college because she couldn’t afford rent. This book is a powerful tribute to the Wilson family.

 You can find Joy here: JOYNEALKIDNEY.COM

Book #2 is a coming-of-age and family dysfunction memoir, set in Australia.

Australian Gwen Wilson, writer of the blog Garrulous Gwendoline, has published a memoir called I Belong to No One. On the cover it also reads: “One woman’s true story of family violence, forced adoption and ultimate triumphant survival.” I wasn’t sure what I would find when I started to read, but I was immediately hooked by Gwen’s storytelling voice. As you might expect from a woman who bills herself on WordPress as “garrulous” and says in the memoir that one of her favorite words is loquacious, Gwen’s voice expertly tells her story and imparts her personality. Her voice is strong, confident, and positive because so is the woman telling the story of her childhood and youth. She also comes across as humble and sincere. This is the successful, mature adult looking back at her upbringing. And while she was clearly always very emotionally strong and generally positive, she was not always confident because the life experiences she went through from a young age tried to grind her down. But Gwen didn’t let them keep her down. Whenever she could catch a lucky break, she would run with it. Finally, she caught one in the form of a job in the shipping world and was able to move forward with her adult life.

Nevertheless, with Gwen’s muscular and straightforward prose, the majority of the story details what she had to overcome. Legally, she was raised by a single, mentally ill mother who was not capable of parenting her. But in reality, Gwen was raised by her older brother Steve and a series of surrogate moms in the form of neighbors, aunts, and friends’ mothers. This patched-together group of “moms” are where Gwen learned how to be a woman. The topics covered from Gwen’s first person perspective include domestic abuse, illegitimacy (in a time when that really mattered), forced adoption, child neglect, poverty, and rape. The rape scene and how it was handled afterward should be mandatory reading for anyone who is unsure of the #metoo movement. It reminds me of how things were when I was young (so we need to remember that we have made some improvements in society and law regarding rape). Gwen truly had nobody to turn to—and no rape crisis centers as they hadn’t been invented yet.

Gwen’s descriptions of her homes and the people in her life are carefully and wonderfully drawn. I find it difficult to move from under the spell of her story and back into my own life. Gwen was born the same year as memoirist Mary Karr. There are similarities in topics, but Australia in the 60s and 70s was much different than the United States. And Gwen had less advantages than Mary Karr had. But anybody who found The Liar’s Club or Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle fascinating will find Gwen’s book just as hard to put down.

I hope to have reviews of a couple more books next week!

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Felix update: First we went through the exact same disappointment at a different ultrasound facility on Tuesday–it was another screw-up and they sent us home. However, the next day he had his ultrasound. It showed a liver tumor, enlarged lymph nodes in his abdomen, and other smaller issues. I haven’t been able to talk to his regular vet after she got a copy of the report but we did speak briefly and hypothetically. It’s unlikely that we will put him through more testing as it would be traumatic to him and probably to no avail. But a decision has not yet been made. If we don’t do more testing, we will provide hospice for him at home. I have started giving him subq fluids (under the skin with a needle) once a day, as well as several meds. The internist who performed the ultrasound was so impressed with Felix’s chill personality. He really is the epitome of a “good boy.”

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On a Wing and a Prayer

Last week, in the middle of the sudden illness and passing of my daughter’s sweet cat Izzie, my Felix (cat #3–he’s 15) was developing symptoms. He tested positive for anemia. He is on medications to keep him eating, plus I started giving him daily subq fluids (i.e., under the skin) on Saturday. By yesterday I was feeding him by hand. However, he acts pretty spunky, so it’s pretty weird.

He was scheduled for an abdominal ultrasound today. Yesterday afternoon, on a Sunday, that office called and said the appointment was made by mistake. That they don’t do outpatient ultrasounds. When I made the appointment Friday morning, I was clearly told to avoid that issue he would be scheduled as an emergency patient and would get an ultrasound at 11AM. Today the woman who called kept repeating “no outpatient ultrasounds.” Because I made the appointment there, I missed out on scheduling elsewhere. She just kept repeating her script and obviously could care less about whether Felix survives or not. This is ANIMAL MEDICAL AND SURGICAL CENTER IN SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA. I could not believe they did that to Felix. I will be contacting the veterinary board of Arizona. And I have to start from scratch again for Felix.

Prayers and/or strong healthy vibes for him would be much appreciated.

Between work and cat care I haven’t had much time for art journaling, but I try to spend at least 5-10 minutes almost every day. Over the last couple of weeks, I completed these two that I like (except for their amateurish quality and the flaws I see heh). The first I posted on an art journaling Facebook group because I wasn’t sure whether to leave it as-is or not. I created an abstract background, and then I saw a partial wing in it, so I enhanced the wing with black acrylic paint. Only when I got done, because of the background, it looks as much like a bird (raven?) as a wing. So I asked the group if I should finish it into a bird, get rid of the top part that makes it look like a bird, or leave it alone. Forty people have responded, telling me to leave it as-is. Not one person said to make it wing or bird. That was cool because I like the ambiguity, you know? But I needed people with more experience to weigh in.

The photograph is one I purchased in a lot from ebay, by the way. I might have had wings on the brain because my new poetry book that will be coming out in a bleeping year is called Rooted and Winged. By the way, the poet who wrote the nesting/chickens/golden goose poem on the right page is named Miriam Flock. Flock! Isn’t that the best?

This next one began with the magazine image of Marilyn that I liked. My ideas progressed slowly, but when the #FreeBritney movement heated up, I knew what I wanted to do. I have a soft spot for her as my daughter grew up as a big Britney fan. She choreographed dances for the high school dance team using Britney music. Anyway, this whole situation that Britney is in reminds me of the classic short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in 1892. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The frightening story shows a woman under the control of her husband and doctor. Unfortunately, the woman’s plight mirrored that of many women then and apparently now. I will never forget a story published in my college newspaper when I was a student. The woman who wrote it said that her husband had her committed to a mental institution to get rid of her.

But Britney and Marilyn are celebrities with fame. Britney has lots of money. Both of them have been objectified and treated as something not human. The protagonist in “The Yellow Wallpaper” was treated as subhuman.  Britney (and Marilyn before her) is a real woman.

This post’s title “On a wing and a Prayer” refers to a bombing mission in WWII. As the plane limps home short an engine, it travels on a wing (wings of the plane) and with a prayer for its safe arrival. Isn’t everything we attempt on a metaphorical wing and a prayer? (Reminder: please pray for my dear Felix or send healing vibes!!!)

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[Untitled]

Yesterday was a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day. Today feels much the same. My daughter’s kitty Isabella Rose had to be “put to sleep.”  She got sick a short time ago and was hospitalized. She continued to get worse with no diagnosis. Her suffering was too much, and the vet wanted to euthanize her. My daughter asked me to come with them. So so sad. Izzie was only eleven. She was my daughter’s first pet that she rescued from a shelter right after graduating college. They have been through a lot together and were extremely close.

The vet called them and said she was failing and they should come right away to be with her before she died. My daughter asked for me to come, too, so I rushed over there. It was excruciating to see Izzie that way. In fact, it was harder for me than when my cat Mac died because Izzie is only eleven (her birthday was July 4), and it all came suddenly and shockingly.

Izzie was a beautiful furry granddaughter who I loved to babysit. She got along great with my cats whenever she came over. She would climb up to my long counter of cat beds and choose a bed to lounge in, right next to the other cats. I’m going to miss her terribly.

Note about the photo: it was taken many years ago, before the consciousness-raising about plastic straws.

 

 

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Cats and Art Journals Help with Anxiety

All the babies in the yard are grown up, and every so often a hummingbird or dove swoops past me that looks a little familiar ;).

I am winding up the physical therapy now. I had two problems: rotator cuff calcification tendinitis and frozen shoulder. The PT has cured the frozen shoulder at least to 85% usage. The other will take much longer as I need to keep exercising. Eventually, the calcification is supposed to be absorbed by the body.

My brain is a little zapped right now. I’m concerned about health problems my daughter is having, and I am feeling stunned over the condo collapse in Florida. When I’m feeling like I am right now I am convinced that the greed and arrogance of humanity is going to take us down.

Also, I have claustrophobia so I spent days worrying about the people in the collapse.

Trying to cheer myself up, I made this page in my smallest journal. Fabrics from my childhood, and the button belonged to Grandma.

Notice that I’m making a little fun of myself, too, as 19-year-old me thought that big-a** hat looked stylish.

Putting the finishing touches on the first draft of the newly “remodelled” Scrap. 

I’m focused on being a good nursing home nurse for Pear Blossom. She’s doing well getting up and down from the couch with that one seat cushion removed. But sometimes she chooses to lie on the cool floor near her water bowl. Pee pads and water bowl are very near the couch for her convenience. She is still such a pleasure all the time. She’s my little nurse, too. She’s the one who got me through my one-year-plus foot surgery recovery and the Valley Fever. She used to take care of our last dog when he didn’t feel well. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the room and found her in Perry’s blue cube.

Pear wants you to have a wonderful week!

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