The extended power outage
William enjoying the extended power outage
Ernest enjoying the power onage
David and I opened presents Christmas afternoon.
I got lots of cats. Faux cats: cat calendars from an old and dear friend; cat socks and a “book throw” dotted with cats, from David. I also received Jeopardy socks and sloth socks and a backdrop.
Last year David gave me a tote bag with a sloth on it, the source of many compliments from oncology nurses. The sloth socks make me think there might be a subtext brewing, though; if there is, it’s justified.
The backdrop is designed to make Zoom friends think I live a more picturesque life. The apartment walls are pink, a pleasant pink, the same pink of the living room and dining room in the house I grew up in, but as background on Zoom they look sick. My computer doesn’t have the oomph to support a “virtual background.” Dear husband has taken care of that. All we have to do now is stick the backdrop on the wall where the camera can find it.
William and Ernest received catnip mice. Ernest said his was okay but no big deal—he doesn’t do drugs—and headed for the litter box. William was delighted with his mouse, started batting it around, but was distracted by the sound of Ernest scrabbling around in the litter box and abandoned the mouse to listen. Returning, Ernest swatted the mouse once but by then William was in the litter box, and Ernest had to pay attention. They are social animals. So much for the mice.
About that first sentence: I never imagined writing it. In my youth, presents were a morning thing. The adults were so excited that they dragged us out of bed about four o’clock in the morning—no exaggeration—because Santa Claus had come and they couldn’t wait. No breakfast—we had to see what Santa had brought!
No one argued with them.
Correction: most of the adults. My father wasn’t quite so eager. He woke daily without an alarm before six a.m.—farm hours, even though he hadn’t farmed full-time since before World War II—but he didn’t wake up until he’d had two strips of bacon, fried; two eggs, basted; two pieces of buttered toast; and two cups of coffee, black with sugar. Then he achieved consciousness. Christmas morning for him was modified torment. He participated in the Santa part—I think Mother provided him with coffee—but waiting for breakfast was probably like being a kid and having to wait to open presents.
I was thinking the other day about Christmas presents I’ve received. Off the top of my head:
Doll beds with blue-and-white blankets my mother made. She backed them with white flannel.
A little stove with a real oven and tiny cake pans and a tiny box of cake mix.
A pogo stick.
Dolls. My mother loved dolls, so I got one every Christmas. The one when I was eight came wearing a white lace bride’s dress. She also owned a white blouse and some black velvet slacks.
But more than the presents are the memories that accompany them.
The doll blankets lasted for years after I’d put away the dolls. A lot of kittens and puppies were bundled up in them.
My cousin Lynn, about twelve when I got the oven, spent Christmas vacation with us and helped make that little bitty cake.
I tried out the pogo stick in the street in front of our house on Christmas Day but couldn’t make it work. I never played with it because it was so sturdy—my father was probably along on that shopping trip—that my six-year-old poundage wouldn’t make it budge; nor did my father’s forty-plus-year-old poundage. The pogo stick hung on the wall in the garage for years, waiting for someone heavy enough to make the spring depress. The whole truth: I was so acrophobic that I wouldn’t have been able to bounce on it anyway; the pedals were too far off the ground.
I made the doll a suit, a rather nice one, because my mother wasn’t into playing around with the sewing machine; if I was going to sew, I was going to do it right. I found the suit last year when we moved, unironed but intact. I guess the skirt got lost in the six-decade shuffle. Note that the cape is lined. I couldn’t make a lined anything today. Or unlined. My manual dexterity has departed.
One year it wasn’t the presents I remember but the living room floor covered wall to wall with discarded wrapping paper, so Sabre, the Cocker spaniel, couldn’t figure out how to get across the room to the front door.
So many other presents over the years, so many experiences, so many memories.
My mother told me once about a Christmas during the Depression when there were no presents at all, but the Christmas Eve sky was clear and bright with stars, and the family decided it must have looked like that on the very first Christmas.
I didn’t say, of course, but I thought that must have been terrible. No presents. How could they bear not having packages under the tree, and surprises, and new toys.
So I grew up and things fell into place and presents fell into perspective. I’m still pleased to receive them. But the truth of the cliché applies: It’s the thought that counts. And the people behind the thoughts.
And with perspective comes new definitions: Presents come in boxes wrapped with colored paper and tied with ribbon and bows.
The thoughts, the experiences, the memories, are gifts.
The climb might be tough and challenging, but the view is worth it.
~ Victoria Arlen & Chloe Davis-Waller
An hour ago, Ernest had his monthly dose of anti-flea medication.
Process: David sprayed calming spray and gave it time to take effect, then dragged Ernest out from under the china cabinet, put him on my lap, and held him steady while I squeezed the little droplets onto the back of his neck.
Afterward, David retreated to the bedroom to dose William, who is perpetually calm.
Ernest has been sitting beside me, in the same position, staring down the hallway, ever since David left. I think he would like to crawl back under the china cabinet, but he’s too calm to move.
But he is vigilant. Ever vigilant. He never knows when an enemy agent might assault him with essential oils and pheremones.
And what then? The possibilities are too terrible to imagine.
He’s heard about flea baths.
Day 10, 11, or 12, I don’t remember, of sheltering in place. I stayed in for a week earlier in the month, then went out twice, the second time unnecessary and stupid. Anyway, it feels like more than 10, 11, or 12 days.
But self-quarantine is necessary for David and me, and for the rest of the city, the state, and the country. I could look on it as my patriotic duty. Because it is.
I fell off #ROW80, in part because I’m so good at falling off challenges, but I shall pick it up now.
My goal, after a late start, was to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26. Tomorrow is check-in day. Well.
I got the goal down to something like 2100. I can’t do that much in 23 hours–or maybe I can; I think I’ve produced that many words in a day before. Once.
Best case scenario, I’ll get down to business tomorrow and write a couple of scenes. Last month I did two without dithering to get them almost perfect. I might do that again.
We shall see.
Now about Sheltering Place.
I’m good at it. I’m good at anything that allows for sitting around. I’m beginning to have an itch to get outside and walk up and down the sidewalk. The small outdoors on the other side of my window is usually empty. A few people walk their dogs up and down the sidewalk. I could walk all over the complex without meeting anyone. Or could, when people were working elsewhere. Maybe they still are.
I’m also getting the itch to write. I think about the WIP every day and have mentally composed a lot. Mental composition doesn’t always transfer to the page, though, especially when I look at the blank page and forget what was in my brain. Characters stop talking and there goes the sparkling dialogue.
That’s what I haven’t been doing. What I have been doing.
Washing cheese, frozen entree packaging, and cottage cheese. We leave delivered and picked up food in the trunk of the car for the time it takes for the virus to die, and longer to make sure, but perishable items come inside, where they meet soap and water.
I used hot water, of course, and in so doing probably cooked the cheese. The frozen entrees are in the freezing getting freezer burn. The boxes collapsed from the scrubbing, so I trashed them. The thin sheet of plastic covering the food doesn’t provide adequate protection, hence freezer burn. But I don’t mind a little freezer burn. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
When David, the shopper, tried to buy hand sanitizer, shelves were already empty. I ordered some from Amazon. It was supposed to arrive the 13th, then the 16th, then the 29th, but it showed up on the 23rd. I soaped it up. This brand was the only one with 70% alcohol available when I ordered. I bought several 17-ounce bottles and two small ones we can carry with us. The labels are in Chinese. There is some irony in that, but irony is all it is. I’m grateful to have it.
Alcohol wipes are on the way. The 29th, I think today’s email said. We have some isopropyl alcohol (70%); our alcohol swabs are about an inch square. Not the best for disinfecting more than an inch square.
Tonight I wiped down the recliner with sanitizer gel on a paper towel. I don’t know if that’s effective in the first place, and in the second, I don’t know why I picked on the chair, since I’ve been sitting in it forever without concern. Anyway, after a while, Ernest the Cat jumped onto the footrest and lay down and stayed for about thirty minutes. When he jumped down, I realized there might be a problem. I wetted a towel and managed to wipe down his right side before he gave me a dirty look, flew down the hall and disappeared under the bed.
Knowing he was capable of holing up there for hours, David sprayed some calming mist under the bed–we use it to get him to the doctor–and later I found him in the living room. I was able to wipe down his left side and his paws. He didn’t like the paw part but was too calm to get up and leave. I was still worried, because I don’t know that rinsing with a not very damp cloth is sufficient, and I didn’t get between his toes. He sticks his right paw in water several times and licks it before drinking.
On the other side of the issue, by the time I got to the footrest, the sanitizer had receded into the paper towel, there wasn’t much on it in the first place, and the paper was almost if not completely dry when I finished. I don’t think much was transferred, if any. And I’ve never seen him wash anything except his face and paws. Guy cats don’t appear to bathe as often as girl cats.
I thought about putting him in the bathtub and shampooing him. Under the circumstances, he would be justified in shredding me, and I would take it as my just due. It’s a small bathroom with a small closet. Nowhere to hide. But it wouldn’t have been pretty.
I worried. Then I didn’t. Now, thinking about it, I’m worrying again. I wonder if we should take him to the ER (his second home). He seems fine. I don’t know whether to go to bed or sit up and worry. It’s already after midnight, and I need sleep, but he’s my baby. And I’m programmed to worry.
So here we are. A 300-word post about #ROW80 becomes a post about decontaminating packages of cheese becomes another cat post. And words, words, words.
Not necessarily a positive. Composing anything gives me the feeling that I’ve written. And it satisfies the itch. Getting down to business tomorrow may be more difficult that I thought.
But in difficult times, I think about the British. Bombs aren’t falling. This isn’t the Blitz. They did what had to be done. So will I.
Today we saw the first sign that spring is upon us.
It wasn’t a robin. It wasn’t a bluebonnet.
It was a chameleon, the first one I’ve seen in years. Once, a zillion lived in my yard in Fentress, crawled across window screens, sneaked into a bedroom and blended into the leaf-patterned draperies, causing minor panic when discovered.
Then Ms, my Siamese cat, went on a lizard binge, causing more havoc. If you think it’s unsettling to see, without prior notice, a lizard running across the bedroom floor, try opening the door and finding one lying belly up, dead, often minus the skin of his soft underbelly, right where you were planning to plant your foot. I appreciated Ms’s thought, but the gift, not so much.
Anyway—maybe because the chameleon population had been decimated, maybe because survivors got wise and relocated—by the early ’80s, they were gone.
They didn’t frequent our former apartment, either. But now that one has appeared outside the window at our new place, more will surely follow. I hope.
Ernest hopes so, too. He saw the visitor before I did, jumped onto the window sill, stood, and batted. Stood down, stood up, and batted. Again and again.
Watching a beloved pet hunt and not gather is heartrending, up to a point. Mostly it’s a grab-the-camera-and-holler-at-David-to-come-see moment. We focused on the scene as closely as Ernest focused on his prey.
The hunt ended when the lizard scooted eighteen inches to the right. Ernest lost him. He lay down and stared out the window. David tapped on the window and pointed but failed to catch his attention.
A few minutes later, we abandoned him and headed downtown to the Violet Crown Theater for CatVideoFest—”a compilation reel of the best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, classic internet powerhouses.”
Most were short-shorts, amateur cats being cats, filmed by their owners. A few were scripted. I’ve included links to two of those—”An Engineer’s Guide to Cats 2.0—The Sequel” and “Henri 2—Paw de Deux.” Cat lovers—crazy or not—have likely seen them online. Crazies might think they’re worth watching again.
Here’s a link to a list of theaters (nationwide) where you can view the movie. Today’s showing was the last in Austin, but if you’re elsewhere and interested, you can look it up.
CatVideoFest raises funds for “cats in need.” Part of the proceeds from the three Austin showings will go to Austin Pets Alive, an animal rescue and advocacy organization that fosters homeless animals and finds them forever homes.
Years ago, I closed my first blog, Whiskertips, because it had, against my will, become catcentric. The title was the only one I could think of that wasn’t already in use, and I’d just acquired William and Ernest (from APA) and so had cats on the brain. I suppose the name constituted a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I’ve vowed this blog will not fall into feline paws, but lately I’ve been walking a very fine line.
Ernest felt fine when he woke this morning, but then he was unceremoniously hauled down to the vet’s for labs, blood draw, glucose and fructosamine, all that, and now he feels exposed, defenseless, in need of laptime. So that’s what he’s getting.
I didn’t want to work anyway.
Ernest having abandoned the keyboard for more interesting pursuits, I type unhindered.
I planned a brief statement about a cat and a keyboard, nothing else, but as Wednesday appears to have rolled around while my back was turned, I’ll add the #ROW80 report.
The goal I stated Sunday was to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26. Roughly 1,000 words per week—written and submitted to my critique group—would answer.
At five o’clock Monday morning, however, my body told my brain that I wasn’t going to add 1,000 words to anything, and my brain said my body was oh, so right about that.
On Tuesday, my body said I could add some words if I wanted, but my brain said Monday’s meltdown had been so demoralizing that it had no intention of contributing one independent thought, thank you very much.
In other words, I’m where I was on Sunday.
Except I’m really a little further back than that, because I just realized the post I prepared to link to my #ROW80 announcement—which I’d put up on the group blog Ink-Stained Wretches—was never posted here at all. I didn’t click Publish. It’s been sitting here in draft form for three days, just sitting, waiting for something to happen that never happened.
A lot like that proposed 1,000 words.
Well. Four more days in this week. Twenty-nine more days in the month.
See § 2, ¶ 3 above.
Onward and upwards, I guess.
Ernest arrived at the veterinarian’s under the influence–that calming spray is magic–and was immediately ushered into the cat lounge, a small room with four comfortable chairs for humans and just enough space in the middle for a carrier.
Wall pheremones were plugged into an electrical socket, and music filled the air: the album Music for Cats. David Teies, a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, worked with animal scientists to develop music designed to help cats de-stress.
Eleanor Stanford, reviewing Teies’ CD for the New York Times, describes it as, “a series of whirring, lilting and at times squeaky musical tracks designed for cats’ brains and ears.”
In some tracks, sounds similar to the chirps of birds are overlaid with hurried streams of staccato for an energizing effect; in others, crescendos of purring and suckling sounds are designed to relax.
“To a human ear,” she says, “the sounds are otherworldly and at times soporific.”
Regarding cats, Charles Snowden, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who worked on the project, reports,
My cat, Pocket, could do with some music-induced relaxation. She was found wandering the streets of the Bronx, and when we took her from the New York City Animal Care and Control shelter to her new home in Brooklyn, she developed a nervous habit of running full speed down the hallway, smacking her head against doors along the way.
Listening to the track “Cozmo’s Air,” built upon soothing vibrato sounds, she sat still. By the end of the four and a half minutes, she had curled herself around the speakers, purring.
A link to one of the tracks, “Katey Moss Catwalk,” appears on Youtube. A link is below.
Ernest huddled in his carrier the entire time we were in the lounge, and I didn’t have a good view of him, so I couldn’t gauge his response, but he remained calm, even, the technician reported, during some unpleasant tests. So who knows?
Anyway, if he didn’t care for “Music for Cats,” I did. It is truly soporific.
Having recently been plagued by insomnia, I may buy a copy for myself.
For anyone who hasn’t run across the word before–and I mean no disrespect, since the first time I heard it, I had to look it up, and I was working on a master’s degree in English at the time–soporific means, “causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull awareness or alertness.”
It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is “soporific.”
I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit.
They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!
From this we may infer than young children can learn big words and will learn them if they’re used and explained in the proper context. It is wrong to underestimate the abilities of children. They don’t have to be graduate students to add grown-up words to their personal lexicons.
On impulse, I include Rossini’s “Cat Duet,” sung by Felicity Lott and Ann Murray, also on Youtube.
One comment: “The perfect response to everyone who thinks classical music is dead serious, dull and boring.”
Another: “My cat just left the room.”
And a third: “Dear God I cannot believe two grown women actually did this.”
Ernest listened and appreciated it.
(Note: The comments above refer to a performance by Kiri Te Kanawa and Norma Burrows. But this one is funnier.)
Music for Cats
P.S. Ernest is doing well.
We’re preparing to take Ernest to the vet for a glucose check.
He was lying on the footrest of my recliner. David said, “I’m going to spray some calming spray in your direction.”
Ernest jumped down and walked away.
But I’m feeling quite relaxed now, thank you.
“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. — Herman Melville
When it’s November, I give thanks summer is over and 100-degree weather temporarily behind us.
This November I gave thanks for the veterinarian.
While was in Dallas at a writing conference, David noticed symptoms of diabetes and took Ernest in for confirmation and treatment. I asked how he got the cat into the carrier. “With great difficulty,” he said.
After I returned home, we took him back to the doctor for gastric problems related to his new dietary regimen. The next day, he seemed to be in worse shape, so we took him back. Because he doesn’t like injections any more than he likes the carrier, we hadn’t been able to give him insulin, so that afternoon, before releasing him, the vet gave him a shot.
That night about midnight, in the dark, I stepped on a furry mass beside the bed and turned on the light. Guess who. Ernest. That was a surprise, since he usually sleeps under the bed. When I picked him up, another miracle occurred—he tolerated it. He doesn’t like to be picked up and held either. He felt like a rag doll. David rubbed honey on his gums, and we headed for the animal ER/hospital (where he went several years ago after eating thread).
By the time we arrived, his blood sugar was 25, so he stayed for an IV and monitoring. At dawn–6:00 a.m., but it felt like dawn—we took him back to our vet for further monitoring. At 5:00 p.m, on the vet’s advice, we delivered him to the hospital for 24 to 36 hours of monitoring. The vet who had given him the insulin was amazed his glucose plummeted like that. The next afternoon, we picked him up.
He’s doing well now. We hoped his diabetes could be controlled by diet, but he’s taking injections from David as if they’re no big deal. We watch him for hypoglycemia.
I don’t know whether I could inject him. He and David have always been buds. David is calm, so in David’s sphere, Ernest is calm. I energize him, so he marches around on me and sits on the arm of the chair and pulls on my sleeve. To give him his due, he’s learned to “liiiiiieeeeeeee dowwwwwwwwwwwn” after hearing me plead not too many times. But he has no intention of learning, “Stop pulling on my sleeve.”
On the topic of energy, since retiring, I’ve realized I energized my students, too, more’s the pity. They didn’t need energizing.
Anyway, November, to me, will always be The Month of the Hypoglycemic Cat.
And on a less alarming note, the The Month It Is Cooler, and in 2019, Damp and Drizzly, and Sometimes Even Rainy, Which is Nice.
I shouldn’t say this, lest it embarrass him, but in the hospital, Ernest’s legs were shaved so veins could be accessed, and now he looks like a 1950s lady wearing a fur coat with three-quarter sleeves and gauntlet gloves.
Note the elegant tilt of the head.
My husband just made arrangements for the Salvation Army to pick up the piano because we’re moving in two weeks and won’t have room for it in our new place.
It’s not in the best of shape. It doesn’t tune as high as it should because I let it get too hot and too cold for a year before moving it to Austin.
But it still tunes and would be fine for playing, or for singing to if you’re not particular about the vocal range. Still, I haven’t played it in months, have played only infrequently for years. The cats sleep under it.
William used to sleep on it.
So I shouldn’t care.
But any minute now, I’m going to start crying, and I’m going to cry till the Sally truck comes on Tuesday, and I’m going to cry while they load it onto the truck, and while they drive off, and every time I look at the space where it used to live, because all my life I’ve had a piano, and now I won’t.
And then I’ll dry up and feel a lot better because the Salvation Army was good to soldiers during World War II, and they’ll find it a home where somebody will play it and not let it just sit there with cats leaning against the pedals.
And because I’ll have stopped trying to drag one more part of my past into the present.
The first appear on Chris the Story Reading Ape’s Blog:
The answer to that question requires only one word, and most writers know what it is, but Gold also answers the more important question, “How should we approach writing advice if even the most frequently shared advice is often wrong?”
Once you access this site, you’ll find links to many other useful articles, such as,
“Paying Markets for Mystery and Crime Stories”
I use LibreOffice Writer and love it. I made a donation when I downloaded the program (app?) and do so again with each upgrade. But that’s voluntary. As Haines says, it’s totally free. Check out LO and nine others.
And three from Ink-Stained Wretches:
Plus three from Austin Mystery Writers:
Now, here’s a picture of the author’s other cat: