Category Archives: Cats and Other Animals

A Little Bit Like Grandpa

On one of my family history blogs, The Family Kalamazoo, I was chatting with family history blogger and blog friend Amy Cohen (check out her amazing work at Brotmanblog: A Family Journey) and I was trying to give her an idea of my grandfather’s personality. I directed her to the first poem in my chapbook Kin Types, “Advice from My Forebears.” I reminded her about two lines in it: “If they come to your door, feed them. Then send / them on their way.” This particular advice sounds exactly like my grandfather’s philosophy.

Amy said, “There’s something both soft and tough in it, probably like your Grandpa.” Amy was right. That was Grandpa.

What does it mean to be both soft and tough? In some ways I am both those things. I am uber-soft about animals, as you know, and a well-directed commercial about almost anything can leave me in tears. I am the same way about children’s issues that I am about animals–especially foster children and adoptees.

But I do have a little bit of a pull yourself up by your bootstraps iron somewhere inside, too. I lose my patience with people who I view as too soft on themselves. I don’t mean people with problems like mental illness, addictions, anything like that. I mean people who give in to their emotions excessively (IMO), but always when it is about themselves.

I didn’t intend this to turn into a vent, but I guess when you follow a thread into yourself, you find out what you don’t like, as well as what you do like.

I don’t necessarily like this aspect of myself. But I’m not sure that I don’t value it in some respect, also, because it means that I keep myself going, no matter what, I never give up trying to be a helper where truly needed, and I’m a hard worker like Grandpa.

That said, it isn’t up to me to decide when someone is being excessively about themselves. I can extricate myself from the relationship completely, or at least distance myself. But I need to stop judging or labeling and just do what I need to do. In other words, I need to send myself on my way ;).

I have a few writing goals this year. I hope I can accomplish even a quarter of what I plan haha. My submission acceptance goal remains the same as for 2019, and I already have three, so I have hopes that I will meet it once again. This year also will be a year of helping a bit with the wedding planning (for daughter and her fiance).

 

Perry and Sloopy Anne have been lying together on the bed for hours every day. So I can’t make the bed. Not a bad reason not to make a bed, huh? Sorry the lighting is so poor in there, but aren’t they cute?

Let’s make this week one that really counts!!! XO

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Bravery on the Streets: RIP Dexter

This is Dexter, but it is just one of many names he has been called. He lived his life on the streets of Phoenix for many years. He evaded every trap that kind people set for him—and who knows how many that bad people set. He was covered with scars and his ears were all screwed up, but he was still gorgeous when you looked into his soulful eyes. When he knew the end was near he sought out my friend who had given him food and soft words, asking to end his days with her. She gave him a home for the past couple of weeks while he peacefully faded away in a quiet place. She was with him, petting and consoling him, when he passed away on Saturday. Dexter was a strong cat, a brave cat. He lived life on his own terms and died that same way. RIP to a cat I will never forget.

 

Dexter was very sick in these photos. I couldn’t let him pass away without sharing his story because courage isn’t an attribute special to humans (when you can find it) or to dogs. Cats and other animals also can be very brave and strong, facing up to the unfairnesses thrown at them in life. I wanted us to appreciate the strength this boy had to live his life the way he lived it. And the courage he found not just to battle for that life every day on the streets, but the courage to come to my friend when he finally felt he needed her. Bless her for noticing that he needed help beyond the usual.

Dexter lived in my friend’s neighborhood and was at least 12 years old, possibly as old as 15. He was a stray, not truly feral (I’ve written before that a lot of cats are classified as feral who truly are strays–and Dexter would have been seen as feral by some, but he really was not). He trusted my friend and some others enough to get close so they could feed him and even pet him. He lived in an area where coyotes hunt cats. My friend says he “owned” her neighborhood and now he is buried there.

Dexter is not confined to the cage you see. The door was open so he could move into the room. In case you wonder, my friend is very experienced and knows quite a lot about medical and behavioral issues with cats. She decided that he would be completely freaked out by euthanasia by a vet, although she held it in her mind as an option if he didn’t pass peacefully.

So please grieve for Dexter, but also celebrate his bravery and his strength and when you have a chance to help someone, please take the opportunity. If you don’t know about the good work of Alley Cat Allies please check them out.

I can’t leave you without showing you some happy cat rescues that I have recorded with my new iPhone.

Kana, my Home Fur Good rescue princess, is in the stage light mono portrait mode.

Felix is, um, I can’t remember which portrait mode. Felix was rescued from the streets.


Perry is in stage light portrait mode. As you know, he was also rescued from the streets a la our backyard.

MAKE YOUR WEEK COUNT!!!!

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Cute Faces for Healing

After that exhausting (or exciting, as Kate put it) end to the year, I got sick and have been sick for a week now. So I am posting a couple of cute pix to make your day. I know just looking at them makes me feel better.

This is my grandcat Isabella Rose, or Izzie, I have been babysitting for a week. My daughter’s photo is in the background. She cuddles her first kitty, Macavity. He was our first family cat, one she BEGGED for :). He passed away in 2015. Longtime readers might remember when he was sick and passed away a month after my father died.

I am not watching the new puppy, Riley. The care of a puppy on top of seven cats (mine plus Izzie) would be too much for me, so she is with a pet sitter who is studying to be a dog trainer. Maybe she’ll be potty trained when my daughter and her fiance get home!

 

Just to prove that I actually brought my pillows to the couch and tried to rest, I am posting a photo of Perry comforting me. Every time I coughed he got a little rattled. If you look carefully just beyond me you can see Pear Blossom curled up next to me. See her whiskers?

May your holidays be all that you could hope for. Much love to all!

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Cute Enough?

Here is a photo of the cutest puppy you have ever seen.

Why, yes, she is my new granddogter!!! This one belongs to daughter and her boyfriend. That makes six furry grandchildren (and no furless ones). Three dogs and three cats.  This one is a little  too young for me to watch. She cries all night long, and I am bloody exhausted. (I admit to coopting swear words from another culture–what of it?!) Mom has gone home (we did have fun), but it’s such a busy time of the year and work just goes on and on ET CETERA.

You can tell how tired I am from the upper case.

This sweetie’s name is Riley, named after Lincoln Riley, the amazing and young (born in ’83) Oklahoma head football coach.  BOOMER SOONER.

Hope you have a good week. Mine is going to be very jam-packed. I hope yours is just the right amount of excitement and activity.

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The Cat’s Way of Time

I’m still trying to stay on top of everything, but last week kicked me in the behind. If only I could clone myself. I used to like that movie Multiplicity where the man is cloned several times. Remember that? It wasn’t a great movie or a popular one, but Michael Keaton is one of my favorite actors. I am always hoping to clone myself, but that unlike the Keaton character in the movie, I can control the clones–perhaps even operate their brains ;).

Not only did I have a jam-packed week, but a lot of little stuff went wrong. My anxiety level increased as the stress did. I’m wondering if this anxiety is a byproduct of The Artist’s Way program. So far I’ve gotten some advice from a TAW Facebook group. We’ll see how it goes.

But I am happy to report that I snagged a 2020 publication this week.

Still, if only I could learn from my cats that time pools up between our paws when we let it do so. If we’re chasing after it, we’ll never catch it.

How’s about this Marge Piercy cat poem?

THE CAT’S SONG

Mine, says the cat, putting out his paw of darkness.
My lover, my friend, my slave, my toy, says
the cat making on your chest his gesture of drawing
milk from his mother’s forgotten breasts.
*
Let us walk in the woods, says the cat.
I’ll teach you to read the tabloid of scents,
to fade into shadow, wait like a trap, to hunt.
Now I lay this plump warm mouse on your mat.
*
You feed me, I try to feed you, we are friends,
says the cat, although I am more equal than you.
Can you leap twenty times the height of your body?
Can you run up and down trees? Jump between roofs?
*
Let us rub our bodies together and talk of touch.
My emotions are pure as salt crystals and as hard.
My lusts glow like my eyes. I sing to you in the mornings
walking round and round your bed and into your face.
*
Come I will teach you to dance as naturally
as falling asleep and waking and stretching long, long.
I speak greed with my paws and fear with my whiskers.
Envy lashes my tail. Love speaks me entire, a word
*
of fur. I will teach you to be still as an egg
and to slip like the ghost of wind through the grass.
What a beauty of a poem.

Let’s all remember to honor VETERANS DAY today!

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Setting and Keeping Goals, A New Thing for Me

Thank you all so much for your kindness about my uncle’s passing. It felt too daunting to respond to all your condolences, but know that I appreciate each one. I closed the comments over there.

Tiger is feeling better. All of a sudden she started eating much better, and I have not had to take her for sub q fluids lately. I hope she stays well now. Everyone seems to be feeling ok currently (knock on wood). A friend brought them all fresh catnip yesterday, so that was well appreciated by the furkids.

Remember how I posted two weeks ago that wah wah wah I might not make my publication goal for 2019, which by the way is the first time I’ve ever set such a goal for myself. I don’t typically set goals for myself. Even if I am nudged, like on Goodreads, to do so, I usually forget about them. But this one I kept in mind throughout the year. When I last reported in, I was one publication short of my goal. Miraculously, I have had three more acceptances, and I believe these poems and an essay should all be published before the end of the year which will put me two over my goal!

Full disclosure: I also  had two rejections in the same period of time!

My big news is that I have begun The Artist’s Way (TAW) program, reading through the book of the same name by Julia Cameron and doing the required and encouraged activities. The two main ones are morning pages and artist dates. Morning pages are three full pages of journaling, preferably written by hand first thing each morning. Artist dates must be done solo, and they require doing something that provides a fresh viewpoint or a burst of inspiration. Then each chapter has other assignments.

While the chapters are meant to be fulfilled in one week, I have discovered that many people take from two to four weeks to work on a chapter. I think I prefer this. I began with the one week plan, but three weeks into this project I felt that I was just scratching the surface of what I could accomplish. I joined a local support group that was just starting out, and we will meet each month to discuss our work with one chapter. So I plan to slow down and dig in deeper.

What is The Artist’s Way? The subtitle sums it up neatly: “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.” It’s a way of eliminating what gets in our way to maximizing our creativity. Writer’s block? Writers who have done the program swear it can remove the block. This book has been around for twenty-five years, so there are a lot of people working the program.

One of my favorite writing theory books is Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Not only did she write the foreword for my edition, but she and Cameron are friends.

I have already made progress, although the morning pages have been very difficult for me. I wake up to a lot of important emails (perhaps, in part, because I am three hours behind the east coast). In addition, my six cats won’t leave me alone until they are fed and the overnight poos scooped. And at least twice a week something “happens” in the early morning that has to be addressed: exploded water heater that has flooded a room, the early morning call I got that my uncle had passed away, a spilled cat water bowl on my alder floor. Then I want my caffeine, too. I have worked out a compromise. I will complete my morning pages before I go to bed that night. That means I will try to finish them in the AM, but if not, I will do them at some point in the PM.

Now that I have that worked out, it’s more a matter of what to write. I never have an actual writer’s block for poetry, nonfiction, or blogging, but for the morning pages I tend to write like this: “Halfway through now. What should I write about? Um, how about writing about the color red? Color should be the sixth sense. It deserves it’s own place, not just part of vision. OK, what now? I don’t want to write about red. It feels boring.”

This is an idea of what I write about. We are not “allowed” to show our morning pages to anyone.

For my artist date this week I went to the craft store and looked through every single aisle, at all the various types of craft materials sold. My favorite part of a craft store is the items that are displayed by color. I love color coordination.

I plan to keep on with the program, so that might actually be my second set of goals that I am making and will keep. Another good reason to stretch out the chapters, though, is that I don’t have to give up on what is most important. Mom is coming to visit for two weeks for Thanksgiving and her birthday. I don’t plan to do much TAW while she’s here, but rather spend as much time as I can with her. She’ll be 85 on December 2. I might not even do my morning pages on many of those days. We’ll see.

Happy Halloween! I love the fall holidays, and for Halloween I love the witches. I tell my kids this is a self-portrait. They think I’m kidding, but I’m really not.

Remember: you are loved! Make it a great week.

 

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Could A Cat Do What I Do?

I had a little upswing there with the poem publications, but I am not the most prolific poet and then there are the rejections that do stack up, too, so I am one publication short of my 2019 goal. Yes, there are still 2.5 months left, but because there is usually a bit of time between acceptance and publication, it is getting squeakingly close. How will I treat myself if I don’t make my goal? Gently, but firmly. I will wonder what I could have done differently. Write more poems? Write more better poems? Read that as “better poems,” not “more better” hahaha. Do I need to use a better system for send outs? Do I need to send out more? Do I need to target different publications? Lower my standards for publications? Count each poem and essay separately instead of the number of publications? (That would be cheating!) This is called WRITER INSECURITY. No matter what, a writer doubts herself and questions herself over and over. At least I think most writers do.

What would happen if I just let my cat Tiger write a poem? She likes to walk back and forth on my keyboard. In fact, she frequently intrudes on my emails to reader jeannieunbottled and types her own little secret messages.

 

 

Tiger just saw “herself” typing away above and got very very interested!

What if I submitted a poem written by Tiger? What would happen?

Tiger, by the way, continues to get sub q fluids administered a couple of times a week. It seems to make her feel better, and she doesn’t get upset about it. She seems to realize that it’s for her health.

My Pear, who is 19.5 years old, lies comfortably on the couch all day every day. She seems content so that makes me happy.

And frees me up to worry about the others! OK, I am purposely in denial about my dear Pear.

Friday we traded out the summer flowers with new winter flowers. I’m not impressed with the quality of flowers from the local nursery, but too late to complain as they are all planted now. For the front flower bed, we decided on a simpler color scheme this winter: red geraniums and white snapdragons. Usually we go with 5-6 colors for a more dramatic effect, but we were too lazy this year.

Make it a fabulous week!

Even if I am sitting next to Pear or Tiger or another cat, Perry plops on top of me and wiggles around until I am holding him in my arm.

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Fall into Autumn

Moving from September into October is a delightful fall into autumn in Phoenix. September is still hot. It’s a nasty remnant of summer hanging on past its prime. But October is one of the best months here. Still balmy, but not hot. Sunny days, but sometimes the sky is a little overcast. The snakes are getting ready to hibernate, and the rabbits and quail are old enough to watch out for predators.

The gardener thought it was a good time to put in a couple of new cacti. Within a day of planting one of the cacti developed black spots on it. He ended up agreeing to cut off the limbs with the spots, and they gave him some smaller plants to make up for it. I don’t think that was a great solution. I would have preferred a new plant because I worry about contagion and because now we have a maimed cactus. But he can’t let any plant go to waste. He treats them like the living beings they are.

Then his years-old barrel cactus (it’s not a regular barrel cactus, but some sort of barrel) fell over (it’s fall! it’s fall! sorry). He’s grown that baby into what he says is a $500 plant. But now look at it. So sad. He propped it up, and the man at the landscape store told him it might live. Looks pathetic to me.

What happened, I guess, is that the gardener planted it in the right spot years ago, but a new company came in and worked on the irrigation. They “fixed” it to the point where too much water was hitting that cactus. Because it was near the wash, we aren’t around it when the water came on, so we didn’t know that was happening.

But now that it’s getting cooler (70s and 80s), it’s much easier to work outside, so the gardener is happy about that.

Speaking of fall: pumpkin ice cream bars! I kid you not. I got them at Whole Foods. Vanilla wafers and pumpkin ice cream. That reminds me that I need to look for the pumpkin butter I got last year. That stuff was so good on the gluten-free bakery’s yummy bagels. Don’t try to make me feel bad about pumpkin. I was eating cold pumpkin pie and Cool Whip for breakfast long before you ever thought of it! (News flash: the bars are making me sick which shows me how bad my lactose intolerance is getting).

Felix seems to be ok, but I am taking no chances. I watch for his business on the potty cam every day. Tiger is getting sub q fluids to help her system deal with kidney disease. That makes me feel bad for Pear who is 4 years older and has had kidney disease at least as long as that, but gets no fluids. However, at 19, I think Pear would prefer to just lie in comfort on “her” couch, rather than be hauled off to the vet’s office twice a week. Sloopy Anne does not seem to be throwing up now that I put her on hypoallergenic food (we’ll see if that continues). Kana and Perry are ok for now.

I’ve been puttering (pottering for some of you) around with my writing lately. Continuing to tweak the memoir that looks WAY different than it did a couple of years ago. Revising poems and sending them out.  I might take a look at some old prose pieces, too, and see if anything can be done with them. This feels like where I am right now: refining, not originating. And that’s ok. It takes less energy, but is still rewarding. That is a good thing in this time of much busyness in business, as well as family and cat stuff going on.

There are only three months left to reach my 2019 publication goal. Luckily, I have a new poem up which I posted about on Saturday. Here it is: BEHOLD THE NEEDLE at Thimble Literary Magazine.

If you celebrate Rosh Hashanah, L’Shanah Tovah! If you celebrate fall, Happy October tomorrow. Friday is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. He holds a special place in my heart. The animals and the environment, you know. Make it a great week.

***

Adding this fun update. Remember when I wrote about my music box? According to Robyn who blogs at Holding to the Ground it was in January. She took me up on my request that you guys write about the secret life of an object! It’s a wonderful piece–enjoy and see if you don’t get ticked off at her mom, too (by the way). The Secret Life of a Clock Radio

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Memory Remnants

It’s been months since I’ve written about the Secret Life of an Object (credit due to Dawn Raffel’s book). The other day I needed to make room in a closet and felt I should confront 3 vacuum-seal bags of old fabric scraps.

My paternal grandmother was a marvelous seamstress and tailor. I wrote in the posts, The Love Factor of Dolls and RIP Dreamland, that she was Head Fitter of the 28 Shop at Marshall Field’s flagship store in Chicago. When I was eleven, she moved to Kalamazoo, just down the block from us, and spent her early retirement years sewing clothes for us–especially my mother and me. In junior high, I learned to sew in  Home Ec class, and I began to sew my own clothes as well.

The motivating factor for me to sew was that my father wouldn’t buy clothes for me, but would buy fabric for me any time I wanted it. So if I wanted a new skirt, top, jumper, dress, or scooter-skirt (mini culottes), I needed to make it myself.

I think of the remnants of all this sewing Grandma and I did as Grandma’s fabric scraps.

I decided to unpack one vacuum bag and air them out. You see, some dummy (that would be me) put mothballs in the bag.

Anybody have an idea how to get out the smell of mothballs without having to wash the scraps?

What I found was that a great many of the scraps in this bag were either leftover from items sewn by me or items evoking memories.

In the above pile, you can see a navy gingham and a red gingham. I remember working with these fabrics; at least one item was a smocked top. Either the top or another item used both ginghams together. I wish I could remember it better. The orange floral in the middle was a granny dress with a red border at the bottom. The kelly green with tiny white flowers in the bottom left Grandma used for clothes for my mother and me.

This bright fabric on top with the sunbursts I made into a scooter skirt. It was actually wide-leg shorts with a panel on the front and one on the back that buttoned on.

The hat lady fabric was my absolute favorite. I bought it on sale and made a little flip skirt and bell sleeve top. I wore it all the time. The fabric was jersey, so very comfy and flattering.

Aren’t these fabrics a blast from the past though? Retro, vintage, and ancient haha.

In this pile are fabrics that I remember as well, although most of them were ones Grandma purchased for someone other than me–herself or my mother or my mother’s windows.

Maybe the biggest discovery in this bag, though, was a remnant of the fabric from the curtains of my bedroom when I was very young.

The walls of my room were painted a pale gray. isn’t this fabric great? Maybe these kittens imprinted themselves on me. They could be why I love cats to this day.

Do you have any old fabric scraps?

Since I no longer sew, what should I do with these scraps to give them new life?

***

Speaking of cats, the shelter I volunteer at hosted a 10 year anniversary gala. The gardener and I went with our daughter and her boyfriend.

I had to dress up for this shindig! Guess what? Jumpsuits are in style! So I bought a black jumpsuit, wore it with ankle boots  (for my crummy feet), and was good to go. But some people looked great, including the rest of my family.

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The Boss’s Tail: Part 6 of The Caterbuddy Tails

My name is Kana, which derives from the name Nakana, but is not short for Nakana. I am Kana, jungle panther, black velvet empress of the realm.

Being the boss is the most important job in the world because without a boss the underlings are without direction. Being the boss is unrewarding and difficult, but it is my purpose in life.

How would Mom handle these kids without me to help? The night I first met Mom and Dad (4 1/2 years ago) I could tell they were a little clueless and needed some help around Casa Castle. I was unappreciated at the shelter at that time because the roaming room was ruled by a monstrous male cat called Henry. Because I was the obvious choice for boss, Henry thought I was his enemy. I would have been content to rule jointly, but he told me that a female wasn’t going to be a boss when he was around. Henry attacked me, so the shelter put me in prison for my protection. I was in my cell when I spotted Mom. She glanced over at me, and I stood up on my back legs and drilled her with my piercing hypnotic stare. She was a goner after that.

But Mom and Dad didn’t take me home. I knew I had smittenized her, but they left me there. Week after week, they visited us for their janitorial and librarian duties, but they left without me. I got ringworm and had to go to the hospital room which might as well be an asylum straight out of Dickens. When that finally cleared up, they shipped me over to Petsmart, which is frequented by the lowest types. They obviously do not realize the talents of an 8-year-old big black female cat as they oohed over the silly kittens and prissy cats. I sat there under glass as if I were a pheasant waiting to be served. They brought me back to the shelter as if I were a loser.

For the first time in my life, I became clinically depressed. What is a boss without peons to boss around? My life was over. Or so I thought.

One day, months after first meeting Mom and Dad, Mom came into the roaming room with a kennel. I was nearly suicidal by that point and ignored her. When she picked me up, I snapped at her. But she held on and pressed me into the kennel and snapped it shut. She brought me home.

But I wasn’t going to make it easy for anybody who made me wait like that. No matter that she had been waiting for her old cat to die before she could get me. That she had been telling everyone about me and how she wanted me to come live with her. Hmmph!

To show Mom–and Dad too–who is boss I started a campaign to run their stupid runty calico Tiger out of town. I had her quivering and shaking and running and crying. But my mother is as stubborn as I am. She came up with all kinds of tricks to protect Tiger. She never gave up on me either.

So I stopped bothering Tiger because it wasn’t getting me anywhere. And besides by then Mom and Dad knew I was boss. Mom loves and respects me so much. Dad respected me from the beginning, especially my teeth, but it took him longer to love me. He started looking out for my best interests and became my buddy.

Life was the best at that point. I was boss of the casa. Mom figured out I have IBD and gives me the right food so my stomach doesn’t hurt.

Then Perry arrived. [Kana visibly shudders.]

Perry is a handsome young male cat. He is good-natured, but unfortunately he also wants to be boss. Everyday we have to have little tiffs to see who gets to be in charge. The truth is, since he’s a nice boy and just learning I often let him think he’s in charge. But we know that I am the real boss just letting him have his baby way.

I am now 12 years old. Pear is the oldest at 19, but she is independent and doesn’t want the responsibility of management. Then Tiger is 15. She’s grown a lot since I’ve gotten here. I take credit for her transformation. Felix is 13. He’s a sweet boy who gives me no trouble. Then me. There are two younger than me: Sloopy Anne and Perry. These five are my minions. My underlings. My “kids.” I AM BOSS.

Sleepy Kana

INTRODUCING MY MINIONS:

The Baby’s Tail

The Dowager’s Tail

The Bitch’s Tail

The Outlier’s Tail

The Kitchener’s Tail

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