Tag Archives: friends

An ungodly hour

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This morning, I got up at an ungodly hour for a Saturday {8 a.m.} and went with the kids and the hub down to a park to watch the kids’ mom finish running a 10k{One of those strange things blended families do.} The kids then went off to spend time with their mom until tomorrow.

I came back to the house for a little while, prepped for an ATV interview, then went to the station to meet my co-host and our out-of-town friend in order to record the interview. We had fun with that, and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening having a leisurely lunch at Broken Top Bottle Shop and walking along Benham Falls. It was a good time.

It tired me out, though. Good thing the house is quiet tonight: I might just have to get up at an ungodly hour tomorrow morning to join the girls for breakfast. {Rough life.}

By the way, I looked for the Super Moon tonight and by the time it got up over the trees behind my house, it was unimpressive. I’ve seen much bigger and more impressive Harvest Moons before. Maybe you had to catch it right at the horizon?!

My new favorite evening activity: Words with Friends via Fire + kids + Big Bang Theory marathon

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My new favorite evening activity: Piling kids on the bed and playing Words with Friends via Kindle Fire with hubby and kids, while having a Big Bang Theory marathon.

Some sort of karmic retribution

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Macaque Self-Portrait

I can’t even begin to tell you what a frustrating day this has turned out to be. It seems that in these last few weeks I’ve been suffering in a big way from other people’s lateness and last-minute “planning” in some sort of karmic retribution.

So, all I can say is this: I dare you to look at these pictures and not smile.

What I *should* be doing

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Sometimes I just need a long weekend to check out and do nothing but re-henna my hair while getting a little sun (a little too much on my legs—oops—was careful to sunscreen my face, but not my haven’t-seen-the-sun-much-this-year legs), watch the odd documentary, and catch up on some reading, while for the most part staying the hell away from the laptop.

I still manage to beat myself up a little, though. Do you ever feel guilty for taking it easy? I should be working on my garden, I should be hiking, I should be making a grocery budget, I should be birding, I should be mountain biking, I should be working on the radio show, I should be looking at those training materials, I should be cleaning the house, I should be leafleting, I should be finding a yoga studio, I should be blogging, I should be figuring out a way to take a vacation someday or do some traveling again, I should be figuring out a way to make some extra money, I should be calling my Dad, I should be calling up that old friend, I should be reading that book, I should be writing, I should be taking Ruby to the dog park, I should be finding us a new bank, I should be… {fill in the blank}!

I’ve heard those voices this weekend, but so far I’ve been able to acknowledge them and then let them go. I do believe that I need time once in a while for my mind to reset and regroup. {But even knowing that I need down-time, I still feel guilty about taking it—we all hear stories about the most “successful” people who only sleep 4 hours a day and are constantly creating and building fabulous things.} What is the secret to success, or creativity, and which should I work towards? What is the truth that I’m looking for? What do I want from this life? Will I find it in bursts of frenetic activity punctuated by rare moments of doing (almost) nothing? Somehow I have a hunch, that if I find it at all, it will be during the latter time.

How To Make Friends With {some} Birds. {How to kill the rest, and some cats, too}

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How to Make Friends With Birds

Today I knocked a book off my bookshelf that I hadn’t looked at for a while. It is a strange little book that my grandma sent me more than 10 years ago. Her sister Alta had given it to her and Grandma Hilda (Kurtz Troyer) had gifted it to me, because she knew that I loved animals and was into bird watching. She also loved birds, and always had bird feeders outside of her windows.

How to Make Friends With Birds; What to Do to Make One’s Home Grounds Attractive to Bird Life, by Niel Morrow Ladd of the Greenwich Bird Protective Society, published in 1916, is about 5.5″ x 3.25″, and includes “more than 200 illustrations” (photos and drawings). This insidious mini-book not only promotes bird watching and making your garden an inviting place for birds, with plenty of advice and plans for building various types of nest boxes, it also advocates trapping and killing English sparrows and stray cats!

How to Make Friends with Birds devotes 37 pages to “Bird Enemies,” and in most cases, detailed instruction on how to murder them. It starts with cats:

In order of their importance as menacing the species which use nesting boxes may be mentioned; The English sparrows, starlings (along the Atlantic Coast), cats, red squirrels, gray squirrels, snakes, flying squirrels, and fox squirrels. This order, however, is subject to change due to local conditions.”

First, a modest suggestion to require licensing of cats, so that any non-licensed cats could then be killed. It goes on to give a few example of cat-proof fencing. It then launches into a thorough scouring of the cat:

The cat belongs to the most bloodthirsty and carnivorous family of mammalia. It is as natural for cats to hunt and kill birds as for fishes to swim. There is little evidence offered to prove that they can be broken of this inherent love of hunting, while on the other hand, a great mass of testimony is available to prove that we harbor too many cats.

THE CAT

Briefly reviewing the reasons for reducing their numbers at least four-fifths, we find that: Cats are a menace to health, being subject to ringworm, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and rabies. They carry germs of the commoner infectious and contagious diseases, as well as bubonic plague, and foot -and-mouth disease.

Their reputation as ratters and mousers is both overrated and overstated. They revert to a semi-wild condition, under slight provocation, where their hunting instincts enable them to work havoc among the more timid species of birds which seek the wilder districts in which to nest. It is the semi-wild cat that destroys countless numbers of quail, grouse, pheasant, ducks, woodcock, snipe, and other species classed as game birds.

The cat has few legal rights, being protected, in most states, only against cruelty and abuse. One may, therefore, rid one’s grounds of homeless felines.

Next, plans are given for an “Automatic Cat Trap”:

The cat caught, open the small door and insert a sponge saturated with an ounce of chloroform.

Tree guards are then discussed, then a couple of paragraphs on those crazy “Bird-Loving Cat Owners” and tips on how to keep your own cats from killing all the birds (sans chloroform). Then another diatribe on “Licensing the Cat.” 17 pages follow, devoted to various ways in which to kill the English sparrow, ‘rat of the air.’ The author brags that he has killed more than 7,000 sparrows in less than 5 years by trapping, on less than one acre of his land. Various traps are meticulously detailed and diagrammed. The merits of using the 44-calibre shotgun are discussed, and poisoning methods are advocated.

All in all, a very strange and disturbing way to “Make Friends.”

Remembering my friend Connecticut, The Back Story

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Connecticut: My, what big ears you have!

Connecticut: My, what big ears you have!

Remembering Connecticut, Part II: The Back Story

One day, oh so many years ago in Portland, I woke up from a nap to find a little grey and white kitty with huge ears on my bed. She came from a typical domestic kitty mold—thin, long-legged, steel grey fur on top, snow-white fur on the belly and chest, alternating toes, a faint white spot on her upper lip. My then-husband had been out with his sister and found her in a pet store. She was a beautiful surprise gift. We were planning to move to Connecticut (the state) for my then-husband to go to graduate school. So she became Connecticat, or later, just Connecticut. She bravely survived the drive across the country from Oregon with all of our worldly possessions in tow; tent camping in magnificent lightning storms, getting fleas in the occasional seedy pink hotel. Seeing the Grand Canyon with us for the first time, patiently waiting as we visited random tourist sites across the country—Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, The Museum of Appalachia, The Memphis Zoo (don’t ask me why I remember all of these Tennessee sites), even waiting in the tent for us as we visited D.C. for the day (I can’t believe we left her like that). She was a sensitive soul and the trip was not without ramifications. In addition to acquiring the fleas, she got her head partway out of her collar one time and panicked as it got stuck on her teeth (we were there to extricate her, thank goodness). She also developed some urinary issues which surfaced now and then the rest of her life, as well as becoming skittish, for instance, developing a doorbell phobia which would send her straight under the bed with every visitor. We thought we were having a grand adventure with our cat. I’m not sure she agreed. But clearly we loved each other and life was good.

Connecticut later survived acquiring a sister, Queequeg, and another cross-country move, this time to California. She survived the adoption of not one, but two stray cats, but made it clear that she wasn’t interested in my pet philanthropy. Queequeg met her untimely death there at the paws of one of the semi-strays in 2001, and my then-husband decided to leave a month later. It was just Connecticut and I for a little while, and she loved it. I was in turmoil over the loss of Queg and my marriage, and decided to adopt a kitten from the local shelter. Tundra had to be one of the sweetest cats I have ever known and she was a beautiful Siamese Lynx Point mix. Connecticut hated her. It was at that point that I realized and accepted that Connecticut just didn’t like other animals very much. She’d never been super snuggly with Queg, and I had always thought that it was Queg, who was always a little conflicted over displays of affection. Of course, then I adopted Pip in order to give Tundra somebody to love and play with (this was only semi-successful, but they did become great pals eventually, until Tundra met her untimely death at just over a year old from a strange illness).

Connecticut. The Stare.

Connecticut. The Stare.

One more long car trip was in Connecticut’s future—this time from California to Oregon. Connecticut, Tundra, Pip, and I crammed into the front of my jam-packed Subaru and moved to Bend. Unfortunately, Connecticut and Tundra had both developed car sickness by this point. After we arrived, though, Connecticut seemed to mellow out. We added another companion cat, Nevermore. We moved to a new house. We lost Tundra. We lost Tamias (a little kitten, to F.I.P.). We added a human (my now hubby). We had lots of friends with their crazy dogs over. We added rescued shelter cats (Gordy & Tommy) and went through two batches of foster kittens, one of which we kept (Isis). We took in a cat on death row from the vet clinic (Big Kitty). We got a few crazy dogs of our own. Suddenly, small step-kids were everywhere, frequently. Miraculously, Connecticut quit hiding under the bed and became a sage Queen Bee. In the midst of our new chaos, she was calm. She never especially made friends with any of the other animals; she warmed up to my older step-daughter, but mostly kept her distance from the twins. Nothing fazed her anymore, and she seemed happy.

A few years after we arrived in Bend, I noticed that Connecticut started looking a little rumply. She had always been a beautiful plush and shiny grey-blue. Her fur wasn’t as glossy as before, it started to look a little clumpy. She got a little skinny. We couldn’t find anything wrong at the vet, but I began to worry about her. This went on for years, but she was herself, just a little straggly. In late fall 2009, though, she began throwing up hairballs more often than usual, and became noticeably too thin. Blood work found some pancreatic issues, but nothing definitive. All we could do was try to get her to eat. And then she decided not to, most days. I watched her waste away to a skeleton after coaxing her to eat, sometimes force feeding her by syringe, for months. I was terrified to lose her—I thought she would be one of those cats who lived well past her 20th birthday. I was in denial. And I failed her. I failed her by not recognizing when she was ready to go, by hoping that a good day, a day in which she ate a little, might be a sign of improvement. I had never had to make a decision to euthanize one of my animal friends. I had lost many through tragedy, and the decisions had all been made for me. I regret that I may have let her suffer longer than she needed to. I also regret that I buried her rather than having her cremated like most of my other animal friends that have died. I’m not sure why this bothers me so much,  but I was sure to cremate Deimos when he died last November and there is something comforting in having his ashes.

Since losing Connecticut, I’ve had to choose (with my husband) for two companions to be euthanized (our foster cat, Big Kitty, and our greyhound, Deimos). I now know that I can make a different choice than I did with Connecticut, and that choice can also be the right choice. I’m going to feel guilty either way (did I do everything I can, did I wait long enough, did I wait too long, if I had more money would I have made different choices?) and that is my issue, not the animal’s.

It took me a long time to get past Connecticut’s death last year; Her death bowled me over. I still miss her, I still think of her every time I go to bed, every time I look at a heat vent (she loved being warm and could often be found hanging out on or near heat vents), every time I take a bath (she would always come up and hang out with me at the side of the tub), every time I interact with or feed the other animals, every time I cry. But I also have come to terms with her death and the decisions I made for her (and for myself). There is no doubt that she knew I loved her fiercely and that I made the best decision for her that I could at the time. She was not stuck in a cold metal cage with a feeding tube in a strange place among sick and dying strangers. She was home, with those she loved and who loved her. That is all I had to give.

Remembering my friend, Connecticut: MELL-ow! (Part 1)

Remembering my friend, Connecticut, Part 1: MELL-ow!

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Today I am remembering my friend, Connecticut. She left this world one year ago, February 13, 2010, at nearly 16 years of age.

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Most of this memorial I wrote a few weeks after she died—writing about her was a cathartic moment that helped me to push through a very dark time. Many of these photos have been on my bedside table for the last year: they are from when she was young and vibrant, because I was not very good about keeping track of or even taking photos in the intervening years. Every day I wake to Connecticut’s penetrating gaze and smile. She loved me like no other.

February 26, 2010

It seems that I’m going to have to write about this, or lose my mind. And body. The body is the mind is the body is the mind—that much is becoming clear, even as everything else is becoming less. My grief for Connecticut is a palpable thing. A very real thing, a physical thing, a physical presence, a weight, a darkness. I can feel it in my forehead, the back of my neck, and of course, my lungs. There are people who care, who understand, and through my fog I have received their small offerings of comfort and wisdom with real appreciation, but little understanding of how to really make sense of it all.

I got to talk with Steve [my vet] today for a little bit, for the first time since she died. It was evident that I was really down, and sick, and he said, “Is it, you know, a lung thing?” circling his fingers around his lung area, “Your sickness?” I indicated yes. “Well,” he said, “In Eastern medicine grief is indicated in the lungs.” And I was glad to hear it, because I didn’t know that, but I do know grief has made me sick in both mind and body, and it is good to feel validated, again, even though it does not make me feel better. We also talked a little about how the seasons affect us and the animals, about this time of year. I mentioned how I felt guilty—that maybe there had been more we could have done for Connecticut. I think he was sincere when he said that no, there really wasn’t anything else that would have helped. He said there was another cat with similar symptoms around the same time, and he ended up “sending her to kitty heaven” a few days ago. At least we can speak candidly with each other of these things.

So likewise, a few days ago I saw the nurse practitioner because I felt like I have strep among some other nasty things. I told her right away what had happened, and she also agreed that my grief had made me ill. She reminded me that in this society we are not given a chance to grieve our animals, let alone much time to grieve our humans. That first day when I stayed home to be with Connecticut when she was dying, I said I was sick. Soon, I really was. Thinking makes it so, and sick is an acceptable excuse to stay home—grief is not. She mentioned that animals have a way of teaching us—and maybe there was a reason she died so close to mom’s death anniversary.

That has not made it easier. Connecticut, Connector, Connection, Nectar, Nectarine, Rumply, Cow Kitty, Bat Ears, Long One (this from a comment made by a vet when she a kitten, “My, that’s a long one,” he said, measuring her torso).

She died in my arms on February 13 at around 5p—just under two weeks ago. Mom died February 16, 19 years ago. Grief never really leaves, it gets weaker over time, maybe, like a virus, but is there lurking, waiting to pop out again angry and raw at the first opportunity.

(As I try to write with the laptop balanced on my leg, Pip has decided to come flump me, perching on my left knee, hanging on with her claws, making it very difficult. But also making me smile. These kitties are persistent in their love, and maybe in their grief, I don’t know. Nectar didn’t really like the other animals very much, and they’re probably mostly relieved that the Wicked Witch is Dead! The Queen Bee is gone. I think Pip was the first in my lap that evening on the bed after Connector left us, her body still on the bed, but her spirit wherever spirits go. What a bittersweet lap snuggle Pip and I had.)

I’m so afraid that I’m going to forget what Connecticut was like. Everything always fades. I can’t really remember anything specific about 20 years with mom; what her voice sounded like, what we talked about, even what she looked like—other than in photos and videos. Sure, I remember impressions, snippets of conversations, a laugh, a glint in the eye, bits of conversations and stories told. But much of it disappeared a long time ago. I just don’t have a great memory for detail.

I walk around this house and there is a palpable absence of Connecticut everywhere. Nearly 16 years of her are walking around with me. I wish I understood where she is now—my oldest friend. I thought going through the process with her—not hospitalizing her, letting her go when she needed to go—I thought that would help us through it too, my husband and I. But holding her, feeling her take those last long breaths, so far apart, feeling all of the heat drain from her body, her feet so cold to the touch in those last few minutes—it didn’t help. She was there, and then she was not there. Where did she go? If she were here now, she would be stoically helping me through this by curling up in my lap or on my chest at every opportunity. That had to have been one of her most favorite things in the world—doing “the boat” or becoming “a loaf” on my chest, purring away with that deep, sputtering, popcorn of a purr. Another nickname: Popcorn Head. If she was in the mood, and she often was, she’d undo the boat and strike a sphinx pose, with her arms very close to my face, so she could poke me now and then with her paw. And then, waiting for me to become sleepy, or sometimes after I was asleep, she’d lick my face, which I would try somewhat unsuccessfully to dodge under the covers. She obviously thought this was funny. And it was a game we had played hundreds of times.

Nectar had other games as well. She would almost always get up with me in the morning. My first pee was often accompanied by Connecticut, trying to bite my big toes. She’d go for a toe, I’d try to hide the attacked foot behind the other, and then she’d go for the other toe. After a while (how many years?) I wised up and would immediately plunge my feet under the bath rug to try to avoid those sharp little teeth. Her green eyes would be bright and her white whiskers so alert and far forward, enjoying herself immensely. (She also liked sleeping on my lap if I spent too much time in the toilet.) She was not immune to occasionally biting a nose or chin, either, as my pet-sitting friend once found out. Then there was the banister or counter game that she liked to play with my husband or I, where we’d tap the end of the banister or the counter lightly and say Meh! and she’d race towards us, sometimes talking back with a Meh! Then we’d run to the other end, tap it, and she’d race back towards us, this repeating for some time. She had a deep voice, and did her fair share of talking. She would say what sounded like, “MELL-ow!” and which we’d often repeat back to her, “MELL-ow!” Connecticut had her own vocabulary, and inspired ours. “Flump” was the only adequate way to explain the way she would fall over dramatically to one side, when deciding to lay down. The word has gotten incorporated into our family lexicon. Note: Cats flump, dogs don’t. Cats also do the “boat” or “loaf,” which is when they tuck all their legs underneath and sleep upright. And a pointy cat face is a “beak.”

Connection was my cat, who became our cat. She seemed to have loved my husband and I both equally, and without judgment, which is something we are unable to do even for each other. She was a constant, for so many years. When she was younger, she used to be very sensitive to my tears, and would stick her beak in my face, trying to comfort me. After a while, she stopped doing that, probably jaded by too many tears. But I knew she still cared, because she was always there to jump in my lap, no matter what kind of mood I was in. And for more years than I can remember, after a preliminary boat session on my chest, she slept most of the night to the right of my head and pillow, between me and the night stand. That was her spot. Occasionally, for variety, she’d sleep in the middle between us.

Sixteen years is a long time. That’s four and a half years short of the time I had with my mom. That’s longer than any other friendship I’ve had. I will miss Nectar always.