The Move’s A-Foot

I sit in the new living room, in my wheelchair, the only chair in the apartment, looking out across the balcony at the new view—sidewalk, pink crepe myrtle, grass, trees, and a stone.

The stone is massive. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sword hilt sticking out the top. In fact, I would be delighted to see a sword hilt sticking out the top.

A closer look—with the camera’s zoom—suggests the stone might be hollow. Removing a sword would be easier if the stone were hollow.

Just off the patio stands a tree. At first, I thought the trunk was split, like the tomb of an ancient magician who had broken free.

Closer examination of the photo suggests it might be three small trees, three trunks, no split.

So much for whimsy.

After we’ve moved, and when it’s stopped raining, I’ll get out from behind the camera and see what’s really out there.

I’ve been concerned about the view. Our old living room looks out across a broad swath of green and shade. During our seventeen months in quarantine, it’s provided entertainment: bushy-tailed squirrels gathering acorns, residents walking dogs, Amazon and FedEx employees delivering boxes. The window has been like a great big TV screen. I was afraid the new place wouldn’t afford the same quality of programming.

But not to worry. We’re only yards from the swimming pool. In the hour or so I sat here yesterday while David hung shower curtains and found fire extinguishers, a multitude of bikinis, beach towels, and flipflops passed. Not as entertaining as squirrels, but they’ll do.

We’re not really moving moving—just to a larger apartment, about three inches away. But we have to pack as if we were moving thirty miles. Sigh.

David deposited me here and went back to meet the movers. He incarcerated the cats in a bathroom. Yesterday I prepped it. Cats don’t usually need puppy pads, but Ernest throws litter all over the place. Still, I might have overdone it.

William is yowling. He’s usually the calm one. Ernest is saying nothing. He’s probably crouching behind the commode. He’s the fight-or-flight cat. David administered calming spray but still had to hunt him down and then chase him to get him into the carrier.

Oh dear. There is a new sound coming from the bathroom. It’s either Ernest trying to demolish the litter box or Ernest trying to tear through the wall. We’ll find out later. Maybe we should have put them in the larger bathroom.

Packing. David is a minimalist. He packed his stuff in fifteen minutes.

I’m a keeper, and the descendant of keepers. I have boxes and boxes of Waller pictures and other memorabilia going back generations. When I packed two years ago—my knees had decided they didn’t like the stairs in our previous apartment—I intended to organize and scan and do whatever else that should be done with old family photographs.

We’d hardly gotten settled, however, when the rest of my body and part of my brain joined my knees in revolt. I unpacked what had to be unpacked and then sat down and stayed there. Most of the family history is still in the boxes and bins it arrived in.

I felt bad about that. On the other hand, when it came time to pack for this move, a goodly portion of my job was already done.

This temporary solitude will probably be the high point of my day. Soon there will be men carrying in boxes and wanting to know where to put them. I didn’t sleep last night and frankly, my dear, I don’t give a you-know-what about where they put them.

I am tired and irritable and want a cup of hot tea and a bed. I feel like crawling inside that hollowed-out stone and staying there until Labor Day.

I should stop complaining. I should be grateful I’m not stuck over there watching strangers who might or might not be wearing masks box up the contents of the china cabinet because my wife said she’d been there, done that, and it was worth the money to pay someone else to do it. I should be grateful I’m not lugging boxes in the rain.

Well. William has stopped protesting. I don’t know whether he’s come to his senses and given up or what. Maybe he’s fallen ill. Maybe Ernest had as much as he could take and went mad and walloped him. I feel I should check to make sure they’re okay.

But opening the bathroom door could mean disaster. I guess I’ll just sit here and listen to the ceiling fan creak. And I mean CREAK. We didn’t turn it on yesterday and so the creak didn’t make it onto the Condition form. We’ll have to email the office and add it.

The creak makes William’s and my caterwauling sound almost pleasant.

Naming Characters: Steve Dauchy MacCaskill

I’m posting at Ink-Stained Wretches today about one of my favorite characters, who is based on a friend I knew back in my hometown: Steve Dauchy.

Steve was my second cousin. He was also a cat, which makes him an exemplary cousin. He was the kind of cat who belongs in a book.

Click on over to read about Steve.

Not Steve, but close

Over at Ink-Stained Wretches: Coconut Oil and Cat Bites and Other Stuff

Waiting outside the vet’s while Ernest the Cat has blood drawn for a fructosamine check and playing with the Chromebook, always a pleasure since Chrome so rarely lets me log in on the first, second, or third try. Today it was fourth.

Why do browsers tell you to use your old password when the reason you changed your password in the first place was that you couldn’t remember the old one? Today I did remember the old one but Google didn’t believe me. It took a while to convince it I was me.

But no matter. I’m in.

Instead of complaining further, I’ll say that last week I posted at Ink-Stained Wretches. You might like to click over and see what was what. (About the same as what’s what now.)

You’ve possibly read bits of the post here before, but most of it is new, concerning 1) a brief update on my progress at reading all forty-seven of Anthony Trollope’s novels this year, and 2) the connection between coconut oil and cat bites.

Here’s a link to that post: William Bit Me. Again. And Jenny Kissed Leigh Hunt.

P.S. The drawing at the top of the page doesn’t represent Ernest. Ernest doesn’t bite. So far.

Sheltering, Sanitizing, & #ROW80

 

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.

Cheese. Mine was cheddar, but cheddar obviously doesn’t interest photographers.

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.

Ernest

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.

A Harbinger of Spring & a Video Fest

Today we saw the first sign that spring is upon us.

It wasn’t a robin. It wasn’t a bluebonnet.

chameleon on screen 2/29/2020
Chameleon on window screen

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.

Ernest focusing on chameleon

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.

Ernest not looking at chameleon 2/29/2020
Ernest not focusing on chameleon

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.

 

Bonus: Chris the Story Reading Ape’s Blog with “Caturday Funnies”

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.

Why I (Don’t/Didn’t) Write #ROW80

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 Wretcheswas 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.

*

He’s back.

Calming, Part II: The Cat Lounge and Other Stuff

Ernest, still calm

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.

William, always calm

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.”

The word appears in the first lines of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies.

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.

Ragdoll Cat (Temporarily)

“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.

Over the next two days, I functioned as a lap.

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.